U.S. stock futures declined early Wednesday as traders digested the first U.S. presidential debate. Dow Jones Industrial Average futures pointed to an opening loss of more than 200 points. S&P 500 futures and Nasdaq 100 futures were also in negative territory. Earlier, Dow futures briefly dropped more than 300 points.
Futures rose slightly during the debate, but quickly gave up that ground as the debate ended. It wasn’t clear whether the gyrations were related to the contentious comments being traded back and forth by the candidates. Traders are hoping that the start of the debate process will lead to a clear winner on Election Day and not a drawn-out electoral process that could hit the market.
President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden sparred on a number of issues, including their qualifications to manage the U.S. economy, the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court as well as the U.S.’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Biden came into the debate with an average lead of 6.1 percentage points in recent polls, according to RealClearPolitics. The former vice president was also the favorite to win the election in betting markets heading into the debate.
Many market strategists have cited uncertainty around the election as a key headwind for the market before year-end with each outcome bringing its own risks and benefits. Some investors have raised concerns about a potential Biden win as they fear it could lead to higher corporate taxes and regulations. But at the same time, it could ease concerns about the trade war and lack of stimulus to bolster the economy in the wake of the coronavirus.
The major averages snapped a three-day winning streak earlier in the day, with the Dow falling more than 100 points, or 0.5%. The S&P 500 also closed 0.5% lower and the Nasdaq Composite slid 0.3%. Those losses came amid concerns over a virus resurgence. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city’s daily positive rate of coronavirus tests is back above 3% for the first time in months.