Stocks end choppy session higher on stimulus hope

A choppy start to the fourth quarter as investors monitored stimulus talks in Washington.

After a volatile session, the Dow finished with a small, 35 point gain on Thursday. The S&P 500 rose 17. The Nasdaq gained 159.

Far apart - that's how the two sides trying to agree on a new economic stimulus package in Washington seemed Thursday.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin spoke on the phone but failed to reach an agreement.

The Democrats have proposed a $2.2 trillion package with demands for protections for small businesses, healthcare and for the millions of Americans thrown out of work. The White House has countered with a $1.6 trillion offer.

Victoria Fernandez is chief market strategist at Crossmark Global Investments.

"Well, I think if we do get a stimulus package, if that comes into play, we're obviously going to see some kind of a rally in the market, maybe not a huge rally, because you still have the uncertainty around the election and some other issues that are playing with the markets as well. But you'll see a bump up in the markets. If not, I think we'll stay pretty much how we are currently. As long as we see cities continue to open up, and that's going to be key."

The debate over the size of another stimulus package comes amid signs of a waning economic recovery.

The number of Americans who filed for new jobless benefits dropped last week to 836,000 but remain at recessionary highs.

Some 26-1/2 million Americans received government unemployment assistance through mid-September.

In separate data, consumer incomes were down, spending was up and manufacturing activity held steady. Bed Bath and Beyond was one of the stocks of the day. The retailer posted a surprise profit thanks to a 90 percent surge in online sales, responsible for the company's best sales growth in four years. The stock saw a huge one-day rally of 25 percent.

Video Transcript

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- A choppy start to the fourth quarter as investors monitored stimulus talks in Washington. After a volatile session, the Dow finished with a small 35-point gain on Thursday, the S&P 500 rose 17, the NASDAQ gained 159.

Far apart. That's how the two sides trying to agree on a new economic stimulus package in Washington seemed Thursday. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin spoke on the phone, but failed to reach an agreement. The Democrats have proposed a $2.2 trillion package with demands for protections for small businesses, health care, and for the millions of Americans thrown out of work. The White House has countered with a $1.6 trillion offer.

Victoria Fernandez is chief market strategist at Crossmark Global Investments.

VICTORIA FERNANDEZ: Well I think if we do get a stimulus package, if that comes into play, we're obviously going to see some kind of a rally in the market. Maybe not a huge rally because you still have the uncertainty around the election and some other issues that are playing with the markets as well. But you'll see a bump up in the markets. If not, I think we'll stay pretty much how we are currently as long as we see cities continue to open up. And that's going to be key.

- The debate over the size of another stimulus package comes amid signs of a waning economic recovery. The number of Americans who filed for new jobless benefits dropped last week to 836,000, but remain at recessionary highs. Some 26 and a half million Americans received government unemployment assistance through mid-September. In separate data, consumer incomes were down, spending was up, and manufacturing activity held steady.

Bed Bath and Beyond was one of the stocks of the day. The retailer posted a surprise profit thanks to a 90% surge in online sales, responsible for the company's best sales growth in four years. The stock saw a huge one-day rally of 25%.