Stocks Decline After Reaching Covid Crash High: Markets Wrap

By Sarah Ponczek and Claire Ballentine, Bloomberg,

U.S. stocks declined after the S&P 500 briefly touched the highest level since the coronavirus pandemic sent markets tumbling worldwide in March. Crude oil also turned lower.

The main U.S. equity index stumbled in afternoon trading on signs the virus was throttling reopening plans in states like California. An increase in tensions with China also damaged sentiment. The measures had almost reclaimed a gain for the year before stumbling. It’s still down almost 7% from a Feb. 19 high.

The volatility in the S&P also corresponded with prices swings in Tesla Inc., which is in the Nasdaq Composite. The Nasdaq hit another record high before closing in the red. The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished the day slightly higher.

“It’s remarkable how optimistic investors seem to be,” said John Carey, portfolio manager at Pioneer Investment Management. “But there are a lot of uncertainties remaining and it’s a little bit early to assume it’s going to be back to business as usual anytime soon.”

Traders are awaiting reports this week from a slew of companies that have yet to provide concrete guidance on the impact of the virus. Shares of PepsiCo Inc. rose after the snack-maker reported stronger-than-expected second-quarter sales.

European stocks rose with government bond yields. Oil declined ahead of an OPEC+ meeting at which the group may announce plans to start tapering historic production cuts.

With global stocks trading near their highest since February, the focus has turned to whether the profit outlook will back up bullishness fueled by central bank and fiscal policy support. Traders have largely shrugged off new coronavirus outbreaks in some parts of the world. California’s two biggest school districts said they would offer remote learning only in the fall despite calls by the Trump administration for classrooms to fully reopen. The state reported a record number of people hospitalized with coronavirus.

There’s reason for optimism even though earnings are estimated to have contracted by more than 40% in the worst quarter since the financial crisis, as analysts upgrade their forecasts for the rest of the year.

“The backdrop is positive for all sectors of the market,” said Gerry Sparrow, president of Sparrow Capital Management Inc. “The reason for that backdrop is that the recovery has taken hold, so jobs data, consumer credit, home building strength signaled that the economy has shifted in a positive direction.”

Here are some key events coming up:

  • JPMorganBank of AmericaWells FargoGoldman SachsBNY Mellon and Citigroup start the U.S. earnings season for banks.
  • Wednesday brings the Bank of Japan’s policy decision and a Governor Haruhiko Kuroda briefing.
  • The EIA crude oil inventory report is due Wednesday.
  • China releases second-quarter GDP on Thursday as well as key economic indicators for June.
  • The European Central Bank meets to set monetary policy on Thursday, with President Christine Lagarde holding a virtual press conference afterward.
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