Stock futures fall as virus fears eclipse upbeat retail sales


FILE PHOTO: Traders wear masks as they work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange as the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues in the Manhattan borough of New York, U.S., May 27, 2020. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

July 16, 2020

By Medha Singh and Devik Jain

(Reuters) – U.S. stocks fell on Thursday with the S&P 500 retreating from a five-week high as concerns about the economic toll from another round of shutdowns across the United States offset data showing upbeat domestic retail sales in June.

The Commerce Department’s report showed retail sales jumped 7.5% last month compared with economists’ forecast of 5%, signaling the economy was continuing to limp out of a coronavirus-driven slump.

But a recent surge in domestic COVID-19 cases has forced states such as California to shut down again, sparking fears of more business damage and slowing the pace of a Wall Street rally.

“Much of the easy lifting in both the equity markets and in the economy is mostly behind us,” said Michael Hans, chief investment officer at Clarfeld Citizens Private Wealth in Greater New York Area.

“Especially as it relates to retail sales, the policy moving forward is important. What goes on at the end of the month with the pandemic unemployment assistance set to expire? How does that impact the recovery and how does the consumer fare?”

Millions are set to lose their unemployment checks on July 31 when the government stops paying an additional $600 per week to jobless self-employed people, gig workers and contractors who do not qualify for regular state unemployment benefits.

Another report from the Labor Department on Thursday showed weekly jobless claims fell to 1.30 million in the week ended July 11, down slightly from the previous week but remain roughly double their highest point during the global financial crisis.

At 9:49 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average <.DJI> was down 125.92 points, or 0.47%, at 26,744.18, the S&P 500 <.SPX> was down 21.88 points, or 0.68%, at 3,204.68. The Nasdaq Composite <.IXIC> was down 116.37 points, or 1.10%, at 10,434.12.

Technology stocks weighed the most on all the three indexes. Among major S&P sectors, communication services <.SPLRCS>, technology <.SPLRCT> and energy <.SPNY> lagged the most.

Bank of America Corp <BAC.N> fell 3.8% after its second-quarter profit more than halved, while Morgan Stanley rose 1.6% after posting a record quarterly profit.

Twitter Inc <TWTR.N> fell 2.8% as hackers accessed its internal systems to hijack some of the platform’s top voices including U.S. presidential candidate Joe Biden, reality TV star Kim Kardashian West, former U.S. President Barack Obama and billionaire Elon Musk and used them to solicit digital currency.

American Airlines <AAL.O> dropped 6.5% as it sent 25,000 notices of potential furloughs to frontline workers and warned that demand for air travel is slowing again.

Tesla Inc <TSLA.O> slipped 2.8% as its vehicle registrations nearly halved in the U.S. state of California during the second quarter, according to data from a marketing research firm.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 3.09-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and for a 3.39-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 20 new 52-week highs and no new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 51 new highs and nine new lows.

(Reporting by Medha Singh and Devik Jain in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel)