Wall Street snaps two-day slump on lift from tech titans

(Reuters) – U.S. stocks ended higher on Monday as increases in large tech and internet companies and oil price gains outweighed concerns about the latest U.S.-China tensions and downbeat sentiment from the annual meeting of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway.

Major U.S. indexes opened lower but moved higher throughout the afternoon to snap two-day losing streaks.

Stocks have rebounded sharply since late March from the coronavirus-fueled sell-off, helped by massive monetary and fiscal stimulus. Investors are now watching efforts by a number of states trying to spark their economies by easing restrictions put in place to fight the outbreak.

On Monday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo outlined a phased reopening of business in the state hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. California Governor Gavin Newsom said that retail businesses in the state may begin reopening as early as this week.

“Can you lift restrictions and begin to phase in economic activity and yet keep the number of cases at bay? That is what the market is focused on right now,” said Quincy Krosby, chief market strategist at Prudential Financial in Newark, New Jersey.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI rose 26.07 points, or 0.11%, to 23,749.76, the S&P 500 .SPX gained 12.03 points, or 0.42%, to 2,842.74 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC added 105.77 points, or 1.23%, to 8,710.72.

Gains in Microsoft (MSFT.O), Apple (AAPL.O) and Amazon (AMZN.O) were the biggest lifts for the S&P 500, following mixed reaction last week to reports from big tech names.

Energy .SPNY was the best performing S&P 500 sector, rising 3.7%, as oil prices gained.

Shares of Delta Air Lines Inc (DAL.N), American Airlines Group Inc (AAL.O), Southwest Airlines Co (LUV.N) and United Airlines Holdings Inc (UAL.O) fell between 5% and 8%, among the biggest decliners on the S&P 500 after Berkshire Hathaway dumped stakes in major U.S. airlines.

Shares of Berkshire (BRKa.N) itself fell 2.6% and weighed on the S&P 500 after the conglomerate posted a record quarterly net loss of nearly $50 billion.

Buffett, whose comments are closely followed by investors, acknowledged at Berkshire’s annual meeting on Saturday that the pandemic could significantly damage the economy and his investments.

“His narrative was relatively sober compared to his posture over the years,” said Emily Roland, co-chief investment strategist at John Hancock Investment Management.

A flare-up in U.S.-China tensions also pressured the market. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday there was “a significant amount of evidence” that the new coronavirus emerged from a Chinese laboratory. An editorial in China’s Global Times said he was “bluffing”.

Investors are also digesting a difficult corporate results season. With more than half of S&P 500 companies reporting so far, first-quarter earnings are expected to have fallen 12.5%, according to Refinitiv data.

Shares of Tyson Foods Inc (TSN.N) tumbled 7.8% after the company said the coronavirus crisis will continue to idle U.S. meat plants and slow production as it reported lower-than-expected earnings and revenue for the quarter.

Data on Monday showed new orders for U.S.-made goods suffered a record decline in March and could sink further as disruptions from the coronavirus fracture supply chains and depress exports.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 1.09-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.14-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

The S&P 500 posted no new 52-week highs and three new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 18 new highs and 14 new lows.

About 9.5 billion shares changed hands in U.S. exchanges, below the 12.1 billion-share daily average over the last 20 sessions.

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