S&P 500, Dow slide as Covid-19 nerves offset tech euphoria

THE S&P 500 and Dow gave up early gains on Friday as concerns about the economic damage from the Covid-19 pandemic replaced early euphoria from stunning quarterly earnings reports by Apple, Amazon.com and Facebook.

Apple Inc surged 6.4% as it delivered year-on-year revenue gains across every category and in every geography.

Amazon.com Inc jumped 4.4% after posting the biggest profit in its 26-year history, while Facebook Inc gained 7.7% it reported better-than-expected revenue.

Google-parent Alphabet Inc, on the other hand, fell 4.2% as quarterly sales dipped for the first time in its 16 years as a public company.

Investors betting on more US government stimulus, before an extra US$600-per-week (RM2,550) federal jobless benefit expires on Friday, have also been disappointed as the Senate adjourned for the weekend and will return on Monday.

“There is a bit of a balancing act between the positives and negatives, a deluge of pretty strong tech earnings and then the struggle in Congress to try to get the Covid-19 stimulus package passed,” said Dan Eye, head of asset allocation and equity research at Fort Pitt Capital Group in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

A surge in the stock price of the tech titans, which make up nearly a fifth of the S&P 500’s value, as well as aggressive fiscal and monetary stimulus have sent the tech-heavy Nasdaq to record highs and set the S&P 500 on course for its fourth straight monthly gain.

The benchmark index is now about 4% shy of its February all-time high, but faltering macroeconomic data and rising Covid-19 cases are making investors cautious again.

Figures on Thursday confirmed the sharpest contraction in US GDP since the Great Depression, while rising jobless weekly claims suggested a nascent recovery in the labour market was stalling.

“We’ve already seen a lot of positives play out and that’s reflected in the pricing (but) we don’t think the market has priced in a cushion for unexpected events on the downside,” Eye said.

At 10.01 am ET, the S&P 500 was up 4.72 points, or 0.15%, at 3,250.94, and the Nasdaq Composite was up 91.00 points, or 0.86%, at 10,678.81. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 32.94 points, or 0.13%, at 26,280.71.

The second-quarter earnings season is past the halfway mark with about 82.4% of companies that have reported beating significantly lowered estimates, according to Refinitiv IBES data.

Energy stocks fell the most among the 11 major S&P sectors after Chevron Corp reported a US$8.3 bil loss on asset writedowns and ExxonMobil Corp recorded a second consecutive quarterly loss.

Caterpillar Inc reversed premarket gains and fell 3.2% after the heavy equipment maker signalled more pain from an uncertain economic outlook.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers 1.52-to-1 on the NYSE and 1.56-to-1 on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 25 new 52-week highs and no new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 79 new highs and six new lows. – July 31, 2020, Reuters

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