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Inventory futures are flat on the constructive information on virus remedy, the US presidential debate

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A pedestrian wearing a face mask looks at a smartphone as he passes in front of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York on Monday, July 20, 2020.

Michael Nagle | Bloomberg | Getty Images

US stock futures gave way Tuesday night as traders digested the first US presidential debate.

Positive data regarding possible coronavirus treatment from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals kept losses in check.

Dow Jones Industrial Average futures fell 101 points, or 0.4%. S&P 500 futures and Nasdaq 100 futures each lost 0.3%.

Futures rose slightly during the debate, but quickly gave up most of that reason when the debate ended. It wasn't clear if the spins were related to the controversial comments traded back and forth by the candidates. Traders hope that starting the debate process on election day will result in a clear winner, rather than a lengthy election process that could come to the market.

"It's been a long night and there's a lot to sort out," said Daniel Deming, managing director at KKM Financial. "It became pretty obvious that this wasn't going to be over on November 3rd, and I think the market probably isn't too crazy about it."

"Short-term volatility pressures are unlikely to subside anytime soon after this debate. In a sense, it creates even more uncertainty," Deming said.

President Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Joe Biden discussed a number of issues, including their qualifications for managing the US economy, Amy Coney Barrett's appointment to the Supreme Court, and the US. & # 39; Dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

According to RealClearPolitics, Biden entered the debate an average of 6.1 percentage points in the last few polls. The former vice president was also the favorite to win the betting markets election in the debate.

"Most people think it's an ugly experience," said Marc Chandler, chief market strategist at Bannockburn Global Forex. "I don't think it really changed people's minds."

Many market strategists have cited choice uncertainty as a critical headwind for the market before year-end, with each outcome having its own risks and benefits. Some investors have raised concerns about a possible Biden win, fearing it could lead to higher corporate taxes and regulations. At the same time, this could alleviate concerns about the trade war and lack of incentives to boost the economy after the coronavirus.

Investors are also concerned that the race could get even closer after the debates, leaving the potential for a lengthy electoral process where the November 3 result is too close and neither candidate concedes. This uncertainty could particularly weigh on the market.

"As for the ballot, it is a disaster," said Trump on Tuesday evening. "This is going to be a scam like you've never seen before."

"I think we will do well because people are very happy with our work. But we may not know for months because those ballots will be 'everywhere' everywhere," he added.

Regeneron said after last Tuesday that its REGN-COV2 drug lowered virus levels and improved symptoms in out-of-hospital coronavirus patients. "The greatest treatment benefit was in patients who did not have an effective immune response of their own, suggesting that REGN-COV2 could be a therapeutic replacement for the naturally occurring immune response," said George D. Yancopoulos, Regeneron's chief scientific officer, in a statement .

The top averages saw 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% and the Nasdaq Composite 0.3%. These losses were due to concerns about a resurgence of the virus. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said the daily positive rate of coronavirus tests in the city is back above 3% for the first time in months.

"Coronavirus infection rates rise in Europe and the US when children return to school," Terry Sandven, chief equity strategist at US bank Wealth Management, wrote in a note. "We expect the US to continue its modest pace of economic improvement despite threats from virus growth and a weaker labor market."

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Katherine Clark