New York City's move to temporarily close schools because of the coronavirus offset optimism about COVID-19 vaccines on Wednesday, November 18, weighing on United States stocks two days after major indices hit records.
Equities were choppy throughout the day, but took a distinct downward path once New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the school closures after the city hit its target of a 7-day average coronavirus positivity rate of 3%.
The move came as US coronavirus cases tick higher, with Johns Hopkins University reporting nearly 162,000 new cases in the last day.
"This is a tug of war between vaccine excitement and nervous trepidation" about the virus, said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at National Securities.
Major US indices finished the day about 1% lower. Both the Dow and S&P 500 finished at records on Monday, November 16, but have now fallen the last two days.
"For most of the day, the market struggled to gain any traction despite a host of positive news related to a vaccine, economic data, and corporate earnings," said a note from Briefing.com.
"Presumably, this was because the market was pricing in a lot of the good news in its record-setting rally this month and needed to consolidate those gains."
Earlier, European equities had advanced following an upbeat announcement from Pfizer and BioNTech.
Frankfurt and Paris both finished 0.5% higher, while London added 0.3%.
Markets anticipate that broad distribution of vaccines should enable the economy to normalize in 2021, boosting especially hard-hit sectors such as airlines and entertainment stocks.
Bitcoin continued its rally, surging above $18,000 in Asian trading hours, before pulling back.
Among individual companies, Boeing ended 3.2% lower after the Federal Aviation Administration cleared the 737 MAX to resume service following a 20-month shutdown. Shares had initially soared after the announcement, which had been widely expected.
Disney dipped 0.4% after S&P slashed the credit rating on the entertainment company, citing the drag from the coronavirus on Disney's theme park business.