U.S. stock futures fell sharply early Wednesday as investors feared an increase in coronavirus infections could halt the recovering economy.
Dow Jones Industrial Average futures fell 500 points, 1.8%. The loss pointed to a drop of more than 480 points at the open. S&P 500 futures lost 1.4% and Nasdaq 100 futures fell 1%. The Dow is already down 3% on the week, giving up its gain for October.
Daily U.S. coronavirus cases have risen by a record average of 69,967 over the past week, data compiled by Johns Hopkins University showed. Meanwhile, coronavirus-related hospitalizations are up 5% or more in 36 states, according to data from the Covid Tracking Project.
This uptick has led some countries to reinstate certain lockdown measures. In the U.S., the state of Illinois has ordered Chicago to shut down indoor dining.
Stocks that would be hurt most by lockdowns or a slowdown in the economy reopening were hit in premarket trading. Shares of Delta Air Lines fell 2.5% in premarket trading. Royal Caribbean shares lost 3%.
“Uncertainty about COVID-19-related mobility restrictions and US politics mean we should expect volatility to remain elevated for the balance of the year,” said Mark Haefele, chief investment officer for global wealth management at UBS, in a note. “However, we continue to see upside over the medium term.”
“With ten vaccine candidates in late-stage trials globally, our central scenario is that restrictions can start to be lifted by 2Q21, helping corporate earnings recover to pre-pandemic highs by around the end of 2021,” he said.
Dimming hopes for another fiscal stimulus before the election have also weighed on the market.
The Dow fell more than 200 points during regular trading Tuesday and the S&P 500 slipped 0.3%. The Nasdaq Composite, meanwhile, advanced 0.6%. Tuesday’s divergent market action came as names that would benefit from people staying at home — such as Amazon and Zoom Video — rose broadly while stocks dependent on the economy reopening declined.
Wall Street also pored through the latest batch of corporate earnings for the previous quarter, including those of tech giant Microsoft.
Microsoft reported better-than-expected earnings and revenue for the previous quarter as sales from its cloud business grew sharply. However, the stock dipped 1.9% in premarket trading.
“Redmond is continuing to see strength in the field as more enterprises move to the cloud,” Wedbush analyst Dan Ives said in a note. “This is a stark contrast to the earnings debacle we saw from mature software stalwart SAP earlier this week which highlights the clear winners and losers in this cloud shift with MSFT leading the way.”
Boeing reported a quarterly loss that’s narrower than expected, but the company said it plans to cut thousands of additional jobs through 2021 as it adjusts to the long-term drop in air travel demand. Shares of Boeing rose slightly in premarket.
Shares of General Electric gained more than 3% in premarket trading Tuesday after the company reported stronger than forecast revenues and a surprise adjusted profit for the third quarter.
First Solar also posted quarterly numbers that beat analyst expectations, sending its shares up about 10% after the bell.
— CNBC’s Yun Li contributed reporting.
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