Wednesday’s strong market open indicated that investors weren’t hung up on last night’s dispiriting first presidential debate. Instead, the session hinged on stimulus hopes … for better, and then for worse.

Stocks popped at the open and kept rising through midday ahead of a planned meeting between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Mnuchin said “I think there is a reasonable compromise here” and reportedly expects to counteroffer the House’s $2.2 trillion bill with a $1.5 trillion plan.

But stocks cut some of their gains in the afternoon after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said “we are far apart” and indicated Republicans would not agree to $2.2 trillion in additional spending.

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The result? The Dow Jones Industrial Average, which traded as high as 28,026 at Wednesday’s highs, finished up 1.2% to 27,781.

Other action in the stock market today:

  • The Nasdaq Composite climbed 0.7% to 11,167.
  • The S&P 500 improved by 0.8% to 3,363.
  • The small-cap Russell 2000 edged 0.2% higher to 1,507.
  • Shares of controversial big data and surveillance firm Palantir Technologies (PLTR) went public via a direct listing on the New York Stock Exchange, gaining 34.2% from its $7.25 “reference price.”

Focus on the Big Picture

High levels of uncertainty around stimulus, the elections and COVID have put stocks in a holding pattern. The major indices are all effectively flat since mid-August, and most experts predict continued volatility at least through Election Day.

David Bahnsen, chief investment officer of California-based wealth manager The Bahnsen Group, doesn’t view the presidency as the primary driver of the markets, but says “a lack of clarity around election results will facilitate more of the trading range we have been stuck in for quite some time.”

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“I believe there is a chance that in the weeks ahead, the presidential race gets more clarity, but the Senatorial races get less clarity,” he adds.

That’s a difficult environment for making short-term tactical tweaks and aggressive bets, but it’s a fine time to evaluate your overall portfolio and ensure that you have not just the ideal blend of assets – but the best products that offer that kind of exposure.

For instance, we’ve recently reviewed our Kip 25 list of our favorite low-cost mutual funds and decided to add a new global-stock holding whose dividend focus has helped it outperform many of its peers.

If your 401(k) is your primary investment account, your options might be a bit more limited, but we’ve got you covered. We’ve begun our annual review of the most popular 401(k) funds, and we’re starting with a wide swath of offerings from Vanguard. Here, we review all of Vanguard’s actively managed funds (including target-date retirement options) among the 100 most popular 401(k) funds, and provide Buy/Hold/Sell ratings for each.





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