Wall Street volatility raises fears of another sell-off; uncertainty around coronavirus pandemic continues

Much of Wall Street’s recent recovery has been thanks to a $2 trillion package aimed at stimulating the economy as much of the country hibernates to slow the spread of the coronavirus

Reuters April 08, 2020 07:38:02 IST
Wall Street volatility raises fears of another sell-off; uncertainty around coronavirus pandemic continues

The evaporation of a rally on Wall Street in the closing minutes of Tuesday’s session shows that many investors fear the US stock market is in danger of a renewed tumble due to uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.

Fueled by early signs of the outbreak plateauing in some US hot spots, including New York State, the S&P 500 traded up as much as 3.5 percent during the session, only to lose ground sharply late in the day to finish down 0.16 percent. The index, however, remains up 19 percent from its 23 March low.

Much of Wall Street’s recent recovery has been thanks to a $2 trillion package aimed at stimulating the economy as much of the country hibernates to slow the spread of the coronavirus .

Still, many investors remained skeptical that Wall Street’s recent rise represents the start of a sustained recovery.

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Representative image. Reuters

The S&P 500 is still down more than 20 percent from its 19 February record high. However, most of the index’s constituents are worse off. The median change in the S&P 500 since 19 February is a decline of 26 percent. The index’s largest components have mostly outperformed, including Microsoft and Amazon.

Scott Wren, senior global equity strategist at Wells Fargo Investment Institute in St. Louis, is among many investors skeptical about the sturdiness of the recent rally.

“You’re still vulnerable. Let’s say the virus news turns worse. The market’s not going to like it. Or the government can’t get fiscal stimulus into the hands of businesses quick enough, that’s going to be a problem,” Wren warned.

With Saudi Arabia and Russia disagreeing about output cuts in the face of a swelling oil glut, the energy sector remains down 40 percent from 19 February.

Consumer staples has been the S&P 500’s best-performing sector, down about 10 percent since 19 February, steadied by a 10 percent gain in bleach maker Clorox.

Wall Street’s 10 most valuable companies have lost a combined 1 trillion in market capitalization since 19 February, although one of them, Walmart, has actually increased its value by $12 billion as consumers staying home from work and school stock up on food and household goods.

Shares of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals and Gilead Sciences, both working on coronavirus treatment drugs, have been among the S&P 500’s top performers since 19 February, up 25 percent and 11 percent, respectively. Citrix Systems, which sells software helping organizations work online, has surged 19 percent in that time.

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