U.S. stocks swung between small gains and losses Wednesday as investors scrutinized progress toward a stimulus package after new data showed a pullback in retail sales.
The S&P 500 hovered around the flatline, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite ticked up 0.1%. The Dow Jones Industrial Average edged down 0.1%, or about 19 points.
Fresh data Wednesday showed that U.S. retail sales fell more than expected in November, declining 1.1%. Consumers have pulled back on purchases and limited holiday shopping in recent weeks as the coronavirus pandemic triggered new business restrictions. The decline marked the first month-over-month drop since April.
The weak report may intensify attention on negotiations in Washington over another coronavirus relief package. Congressional leaders were closing in on a deal Wednesday that was expected to include another round of direct payments to households, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Movement toward a fresh fiscal-stimulus package buoyed sentiment on Tuesday, allowing the S&P 500 to break a four-day losing streak.