By Medha Singh

Oct 12 (Reuters)The tech-heavy Nasdaq led Wall Street’s main indexes higher on Monday as optimism about an agreement in Washington over more fiscal support lifted sentiment ahead of the start of quarterly corporate earnings.

Apple Inc AAPL.O provided the biggest boost to the three main stock indexes with a 3.7% gain ahead of a special event on Tuesday, which most analysts believe will be used to unveil the new iPhone with 5G capabilities.

The Trump administration on Sunday called on Congress to pass a stripped-down coronavirus relief bill as negotiations on a broader package ran into resistance.

“(President Donald) Trump is falling behind in opinion polls and seems desperate for a deal, so either some agreement will be hammered out soon or the Democrats could win a decisive victory at the ballot box and ultimately deliver an even greater stimulus package,” said Marios Hadjikyriacos, investment analyst at online broker XM in Cyprus.

A recent Reuters/Ipsos poll showed Americans were steadily losing confidence in Trump’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, with his net approval on the issue hitting a record low.

Growing expectations of a Democratic victory in next month’s presidential election as well as bets of fresh federal aid have sent Wall Street’s main indexes to one-month highs.

With the Oct. 15 presidential debate officially canceled, Trump plans to travel to key battleground states this week as his doctor declared he was no longer a transmission risk for the novel coronavirus.

Results from big U.S. banks will be in focus this week, with JPMorgan & Co JPM.N and Citigroup C.N set to report on Tuesday. Bank shares were flat to slightly higher in premarket trading.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc GS.N, which reports on Wednesday, is considering whether to scale back financial targets set

Freddie Flintoff
Freddie Flintoff

Freddie Flintoff wrestles with an insurance write-off Maserati on the Wall of Death in a new clip from the upcoming episode of Top Gear.

The TV star attempts circuits on the vertical face of the wall at Alexandra Palace, north London.

In the episode, Flintoff and co-hosts Paddy McGuinness and Chris Harris are convinced they have found a way of landing cheap performance cars, each buying a written-off model for less than £6,000.

After a trio of challenges at the Top Gear Test Track – including an inaugural game of Car Park Musical Chairs, where they meet Britain’s most reckless drivers, the Stig’s Teenage Cousins – the presenters are ordered to make their cars road legal and report to Alexandra Palace, where the Top Gear producers have constructed a huge Wall of Death.

As Flintoff begins the challenge, Harris says: “I think he has the worst vehicle for this by a mile.

“I’m worried what it’s going to do on the top banking at sustained speed.”

The Wall Of Death (BBC Studios/PA)

McGuinness adds: “I’ve got everything crossed nothing goes wrong with it but it’s just not a good look.”

As Flintoff sets of and gains height and speed, he says: “It’s a completely different experience, I can feel the weight of the car, it just wants to come down the wall.”

The episode also features McGuinness’s crash behind the wheel of a red Lamborghini Diablo.

Paddy McGuinness (BBC Studios/PA)

The TV star made headlines in June when he lost control and skidded on oil on a wet road.

The crash happened while the trio were celebrating the 200mph Club, when a handful of supercars exceeded 200mph in the 1980s and 90s.

The presenters each chose a car from that era – Harris a Ferrari F40, Flintoff a

By Stephen Culp

NEW YORK (Reuters) – International stocks rose on Friday, with all three major Wall Street indexes posting weekly gains as investors grew more hopeful the U.S. government would provide additional economic stimulus.

Gold jumped and the dollar dropped as investors focused on the probability of forthcoming U.S. coronavirus relief.

Wrangling in Washington over pandemic aid has dominated global markets this week, and although U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin failed to hammer out a deal, talks will continue despite Republican doubts.

Trump said in an interview on Friday that he wants to see a bigger stimulus package than either Democrats or Republicans were offering, a reversal from his threats at the beginning of the week that he would halt negotiations.

“We’re in one of those periods where Washington is driving Wall Street, be it either the presidential election or fiscal stimulus and today it was about the stimulus,” said David Carter, chief investment officer at Lenox Wealth Advisors in New York.

“Markets are up on the hope that more fiscal stimulus is coming but its really just hope, as communication from Washington has become somewhat erratic,” Carter added.

Trump expressed a desire to return to the campaign trail a week after announcing he had contracted COVID-19, but aides said he was unlikely to hold in-person events until Monday at the earliest.

Reuters/Ipsos polls show Trump’s approval rating plummeting, with Americans steadily losing confidence in his handling of the pandemic, while Democratic challenger Joe Biden makes gains in several key swing states.

“Biden is rising in the polls, creating both hope that fiscal stimulus is coming and less of a chance of a contested election which could be a real problem for markets,” Carter said.

Next week, investors’ attention will shift to reporting season,

When health care firms that haven’t been around very long announce new venture-capital financing, it’s hard to miss the big numbers.

This year, $225 million went into an East Coast health insurance firm called Oscar and an additional half a billion dollars of equity was just raised by Bright Health of Minneapolis.

These firms are very much still startups, and you can hear a little Silicon Valley-style language in how they talk about themselves.

Oscar claims to make health insurance simpler and easier to understand, yet it describes itself as “the first direct-to-consumer health insurer, pairing member engagement with our own full-stack technology.”

Well, that does sound better than having half-stack technology.

But the bigger point is how it’s at least a little surprising that upstarts can raise so much capital to jump into an industry with so many barriers to entry.

Health care is highly regulated, both nationally and state-by-state, and relies on a hopelessly complex payment system the incumbents have all mastered.

Scale matters, too, including the benefits of operating with a brand people respect when the stakes — health care and what it costs — are so high.

Yet entrepreneur and venture capitalist Tony Miller said it’s a much different world in venture finance than it was 10 years ago.

And the first half of the year “produced the largest two-quarter investment period ever for venture-backed health care companies,” according to Silicon Valley Bank.

To illustrate his point, Miller talked about the 2013 zombie apocalypse film “World War Z,” starring Brad Pitt, where the Israelis somehow anticipated the zombies would come and built a wall to keep them out.

The problem of relying on a wall, though, is once the wall is scaled or breached the zombies run wild.

The health care system seems similarly walled off,

NEW YORK (Reuters) – While good business news has been in short supply, investors may take slight comfort in coming weeks from U.S. corporate earnings that are likely to be bad, but not as bad as they have been.

Analysts expect third-quarter S&P 500 earnings to have fallen 21% compared with the year-ago quarter, a big improvement from second-quarter’s 30.6% drop that was most likely the low point for earnings this year because of coronavirus-fueled lockdowns, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Earnings reporting will get rolling next week with results from some of the big U.S. banks, likely impacted by near record low interest rates and the pandemic-induced recession. JPMorgan & Co.

and Citigroup

both release results on Tuesday.

(Graphic: S&P 500 Q3 earnings look bad, but not as bad as Q2 – https://graphics.reuters.com/USA-STOCKS/azgvoaoyzvd/chart.png)

Overall, S&P 500 quarterly results tend to beat analysts’ cautious expectations, and they could do that even more than usual this reporting season, strategists said. In a break from the typical trend, guidance from U.S. companies has been more positive than negative and estimates have been improving in recent weeks to reflect more upbeat guidance.

Whether that will be enough to support stocks in the weeks ahead is up for debate.

“Very rarely in the last 10 years have we seen earnings estimates moving higher after a quarterly reporting season,” said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at National Securities in New York.

“That’s a very good sign. It’s a sign there’s a strong possibility this quarterly earnings season is now going to be better than expected,” he said. “The only problem is, now that we’ve entered the fourth quarter, a lot of the economic indicators are plateauing.”

That could weigh on fourth-quarter guidance and overshadow some of the better-than-expected results, he said.

Data this past