(Reuters) – A slide in energy stocks weighed on Wall Street on Monday as crude prices crashed at the start of a week packed with quarterly earnings reports and economic data likely to underline the damage from the coronavirus outbreak.
The S&P 500 energy index .SPNY shed 2.8% and was on track for its sixth slide in seven sessions as the U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) contract CLc1 fell 35% to its lowest since 1998 on concerns of oversupply.
Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM.N) and Chevron (CVX.N) tumbled more than 3% and were among the biggest decliners on the blue-chip Dow Jones index .DJI.
All the major S&P 500 sub-indexes were trading lower, but declines on the Nasdaq .IXIC were limited by Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) and Netflix Inc (NFLX.O) – deemed “stay-at-home” stocks as widespread lockdowns fueled demand for online streaming and home delivery of groceries.
Wall Street’s main indexes have rallied this month, with the S&P 500 .SPX ending Friday with its biggest two-week percentage gain since 1974 on a raft of global stimulus and hopes the virus was nearing a peak in the United States.
Still, the benchmark index is about 15% below its all-time high and analysts have warned of a deep economic slump from the halt in business activity and millions of layoffs.
“Today is largely a give back of some of the previous gains as people are trying to assess whether it’s going to be six months or nine months or 12 months until the economy is back on regular footing,” said Dev Kantesaria, founder portfolio manager of hedge fund Valley Forge Capital Management in Wayne, Pennsylvania.
After U.S. banks kicked off the quarterly earnings season with painful forecasts for 2020, investors will keep a close watch on reports from Delta Air Lines Inc (DAL.N), Southwest Airlines Co (LUV.N) and Netflix later in the week.
Overall, analysts expect earnings for S&P 500 firms to fall 13% in the first quarter, according to IBES data from Refinitiv, while Goldman Sachs has predicted share buybacks will halve and dividends will slide 23% in 2020.
At 10:18 a.m. ET the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI was down 361.83 points, or 1.49%, at 23,880.66, the S&P 500 .SPX was down 31.91 points, or 1.11%, at 2,842.65 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC was down 45.34 points, or 0.52%, at 8,604.81.
Hopes have also risen for a gradual reopening of the economy after President Donald Trump cited signs of plateauing in the virus outbreak last week and outlined new guidelines for states to pull out of shutdowns.
But his plan was thin on details and left the decision largely up to state governors. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Monday it could take weeks if not months before the country’s most populous city reopens due to a lack of widespread testing.
“The recovery will be much slower than the market is currently pricing in simply because social distancing measures can be relaxed but not removed until we have a vaccine or a very effective cure,” said Andrea Cicione, head of strategy at TS Lombard in London.
In economic news, surveys on April U.S. manufacturing and services sectors are due on Thursday, while U.S. jobless claims are forecast to have hit as many as 5 million in the week ended April 18, on top of 22 million claims in the previous four weeks.
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