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Dow Ends Flat as Late Selling Wipes Out Climb to Record High

The Dow closed flat on Friday as investors ditched their bets on bond-proxy sectors of the market like utilities and consumer staples amid a jump in government bond yields, though losses were kept in check by surge in industrials and energy.  

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed flat, after hitting an record intraday high of 31,647.53. The S&P 500 was down 0.20%, while the Nasdaq Composite closed up 0.1%. 

The rise in government bond yields has turned investors off consumer staples and utilities, commonly used as a bond proxy given the sector’s steady dividends.

Industrials were up more than 1% following a 10% surge in Deere (NYSE:DE). The heavy equipment maker reported fourth-quarter earnings that were markedly above analyst estimates, driven by improving conditions in the farm and construction sectors.

The backdrop of positive vaccine news, which has also played a role in galvanizing rates, has continued to support cyclical corners of the market like airlines.  

Airlines also supported the move higher in industrials on hopes travel demand could return sooner than expected following a positive update on the Pfizer-BioNtech Covid-19 vaccine.

The Covid-19 vaccine developed by  Pfizer  (NYSE:PFE) and BioNTech SE (NASDAQ:BNTX) was 85% effective after just the first dose, according to the latest findings from Israeli health-care workers published in The Lancet medical journal. The companies also submitted data to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to request their vaccine be stored at a regular freezer temperature. Still, it wasn't all positive news on the vaccine front as officials reported the cold snap that swept across the U.S. had delayed vaccine roll outs.

American Airlines (NASDAQ:AAL), Delta Air Lines (NYSE:DAL), and United Airlines (NASDAQ:UAL) rallied on the day.

The broader value sector of the market, which includes industrials, was also supported by upbeat economic data showing services activity was beginning to emerge from its Covid-led slumber.   

The February preliminary reading for Markit U.S. services PMI was 58.9, above the 58.0 expected, and the highest since March 2015.

Technology turned negative as weakness in big tech offset a climb semiconductor stocks thanks to a rally in Applied Materials.

Applied Materials (NASDAQ:AMAT) jumped 7% after the semiconductor equipment market delivered a fourth-quarter earnings beat, and upbeat guidance.  

Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), (NASDAQ:AMZN), Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOGL) and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) were lower. 

In other tech news, International Business Machines (NYSE:IBM) is reportedly weighing the sale of Watson, its artificial intelligence business. Its shares were down more than 1% on the day.

Roku  (NASDAQ:ROKU), meanwhile, rose 3% after it reported a beat on the top and bottom lines in the fourth quarter, driven by pandemic-fueled demand.

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Feb 20, 2020