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September 18, 2020 4:45 PM, EDT

Stocks Hit Six-Week Low as Tech Slide Accelerates

An investor looks at stock price movements on screens at a securities company in Beijing.An investor looks at stock price movements on screens at a securities company in Beijing. (Nicolas Asfouri/AFP/Getty Images)

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Technology shares pushed U.S. stocks to a six-week low as investors searched for new catalysts to give direction to global markets. The dollar strengthened and Treasuries were little changed.

The S&P 500 fell for a third day after fluctuating between gains and losses ahead of a so-called “quadruple witching” on Sept. 18, a quarterly event that typically fuels trading and sometimes volatility as large derivatives positions roll over. Losses accelerated after the benchmark index fell below its 50-day moving average. The Nasdaq 100 also closed below that technical threshold. Oracle Corp. edged lower after the U.S. said it will ban some transactions over TikTok, and it would be shut down unless a deal is concluded by Nov. 12. Apple Inc. and Microsoft Corp. weighted on the Nasdaq Composite.

“Investors are facing a conflict between this incredibly high level of uncertainty but also a fear of missing out, fear the markets could continue to move higher,” said Lauren Goodwin, economist and multi-asset portfolio strategist at New York Life Investments. “That tension between uncertainty and FOMO is palpable.”

S&P 500, Nasdaq 100 both close below their 50-day moving average lines.

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index fell, weighed down by declines in travel and leisure shares on the threat of wider restrictions to stem the spread of coronavirus. Although activity on major gauges was modest, there were bigger moves in single-name stocks swept up in a bout of mergers and acquisitions.

Investors are on the lookout for more U.S. fiscal stimulus after the Federal Reserve indicated this week that interest rates will stay low for years to come. Data continues to show a patchy recovery path around the world as coronavirus infections surge. France’s daily cases rose by more than 10,000 to the highest since the end of lockdown in May.

“The market is somehow uninspired following recent central bank meetings,” said Robert Greil, chief strategist at Merck Finck Privatbankiers AG. “It is waiting for the next support step, be it from their side or regarding the U.S. fiscal program to be agreed finally.”

Elsewhere, gold climbed. Crude oil traded around $41 a barrel and finished up on the week.

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