Dow, S&P 500 end slightly lower as commodity rout and climbing COVID cases weigh on market

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Dow, S&P 500 end slightly lower as commodity rout and climbing COVID cases weigh on market

Goldman Sachs cuts China growth forecast; Moderna’s stock ends at all-time high

U.S. stock indexes closed mostly lower Monday, as the spread of the delta coronavirus variant, profit-taking and a downgrade of China growth by Goldman Sachs dinged bullish sentiment on Wall Street.

But all three major averages remain near all-time highs.

How did stock markets trade?

  • The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, -0.30% closed 0.3% lower to end at 35,101.85, off 106.66 points.
  • The S&P 500 index SPX, -0.09% fell 4.17 points, or 0.1%, to finish at 4,432.35.
  • The Nasdaq Composite Index COMP, 0.16% rose 0.2% to close at 14,860.18, or 24.42 points higher.

The Dow and S&P 500 on Friday ended at a record as all three indexes loged weekly gains.

What drove the markets?

Stocks took a breather on Monday, as investors struggled to find fresh reasons to push major averages further into record territory.

“Basically, it’s an uneven market,” said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Spartan Capital, in a phone interview. “I think it’s twofold: One, we closed at record highs Friday, so there’s a bit of profit-taking,” he said.

But stress in the metals and oil sectors “due to the added fear factor of the delta variant,” has been a second catalyst, he said. “Those two hard asset commodities are under severe pressure,” Cardillo said, pointing to the 1.5% fall for the S&P 500 energy sector and 0.4% dip for its industrials segment. “But considering that particular fear factor, I think the market is doing pretty good.”

Read: Commodity prices in retreat, with lower China imports likely here to stay, says forecaster

Oil prices extended sharp losses from Friday. Crude for September delivery CLU21 closed 2.6% lower, at $66.48 a barrel. Brent oil BRN00 fell 2.4%, to settle at $69.04 a barrel.

Enthusiasm around the strong U.S. economic rebound from the pandemic was juxtaposed Monday with a surge in new COVID-19 cases in the U.S., which topped 100,000 daily for the first time in about six months, despite widespread availability of vaccines.

The latest crisis has stressed some hospitals, including in Austin, Texas, to the brink, throwing a wrench in plans by many companies looking to return more staff to the office this fall and raising anxieties about young children, not yet eligible for vaccines, returning to classrooms.

“The continuing spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant remains in sharp focus, with new U.S. cases hitting a six-month high last week and hospitalizations increasing by roughly 40% from the prior week,” Saira Malik, chief investment officer for Nuveen’s $450 billion global equity division, in emailed commentary.

“We maintain our view that equity markets are likely to remain highly susceptible to pullbacks and may react negatively to economic data that misses consensus expectations.”

A better than-expected July employment report, with 943,000 new jobs created and the unemployment rate falling to 5.4% from 5.9%, drove records for the Dow and the S&P 500 on Friday. That briefly helped to offset concerns around surging COVID-19 cases, driven by the delta variant, and a potentially slower pace of economic growth.

Federal Reserve officials have been deeply focused on seeing further progress in the labor market as part of broader plans to eventually pull back stimulus for the economy. More data on inflation, another part of the central bank’s mandate, will be due Wednesday with July CPI.

Stocks indexes mostly shrugged off earlier data Monday morning that showed U.S. job openings rose to a record 10.1 million in June.

More focus was on Goldman Sachs’ downgrade of its China growth forecasts Monday, due to the country’s efforts to contain a small but growing number of COVID-19 cases in several regions. The bank cut its third-quarter growth outlook to 2.3% from 5.8%, but lifted its fourth-quarter outlook to 8.5% from 5.8% previously. That leaves its full-year 2021 projection at 8.3% from 8.6% previously.

Beijing has reportedly punished 30 officials across the country for lax attitudes and response in containing the virus, according to the state-backed Global Times. Meanwhile, fresh data showed producer prices climbing 9% from a year earlier, faster than an 8.8% increase in June, according to the National Bureau of Statistics Monday.

In Washington, Senate Democrats on Monday released the text of a budget resolution that would allow them to pass their $3.5 trillion package focused on “human infrastructure,” climate change and other Democratic priorities. The Democratic-run Senate is aiming to take a two-step approach to big spending, with the $3.5 trillion package advancing by a simple majority vote through a process known as budget reconciliation after the chamber passes a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer also on Monday said the $1 trillion infrastructure bill was “on a glide path for passage” Tuesday morning, which promises to unleash billions to help upgrade America’s neglected roads, bridges, broadband, water systems and other public works.

The investment push would be the largest of its kind in years. It also follows the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) update Monday that said the last decade was hotter than any period in 125,000 years, contributing to more severe and frequent droughts, fires and floods.

Read nextStock prices undercount climate-change risks, and real-estate markets are way off, paper shows

Which companies were in focus?
  • Shares of Moderna Inc. MRNA, +17.10%  rose 17.1%, closing at a record $484.47, after the company said its COVID-19 vaccine was granted a provisional authorization in Australia for adults who are at least 18 years old.
  • Tesla Inc.  TSLA, +2.10% shares rose 2.1% after Jefferies analysts upgraded the stock rating, forecasting an 22% increase over the next 12 months. The electric vehicle maker also is requiring masks indoors starting Monday regardless of vaccination status.
  • Workhorse Group IncWKHS, +1.78% shares gained 1.8% despite booking a $52 million loss as it sold off a large chunk of its investment in embattled electric pickup-truck maker Lordstown Motors Corp., according to a company filing Monday.
  • DraftKings IncDKNG said Monday it has entered an agreement to acquire Golden Nugget Online Gaming IncGNOG in an all-stock deal valued at about $1.56 billion.
  • Shares of Sanderson Farms Inc. SAFM, +7.41% rose 7.4% after the chicken producer confirmed an agreement to be bought by a Cargill and Continental Grain Co. joint venture in a deal valued at $4.53 billion.
  • Air Products & Chemicals Inc. APD shares fell 5.2% after it reported fiscal third-quarter profit that came up short of expectations while revenue beat, and lowered the midpoint of its full-year outlook.
  • Impossible Foods Inc. will publicly announce a new chief financial officer and lead human-resources executive Monday as chatter about a possible IPO for the plant-based meat maker continues to sizzle.
  • Shares of Bluebird Bio Inc. BLUE slid 27.5% after the company announced several setbacks to its business as part of its second-quarter earnings announcement.
  • Shares of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings LtdNCLH, -0.92% declined 0.9%, roughly in line with the stocks of the cruise operator’s peers, after a federal judge sided with Norwegian in its fight against Florida’s rule that businesses can’t require proof of COVID-19 vaccination.
  • Tyson Foods Inc. TSN stock rose 8.7% after the meat manufacturer reported fiscal third quarter earnings and sales that beat expectations.
  • Hertz Global Holdings IncHTZZ shares gained 1.9% after it reported second-quarter profit and sales that more than doubled from a year ago, citing strong leisure travel demand and tighter fleet inventory, in the auto rental company’s first quarterly report since emerging from bankruptcy on June 30.
How did other assets fare?
  • The yield on the 10-year Treasury note TMUBMUSD10Y rose 2.8 basis points to 1.316%. Yields and debt prices move in opposite directions.
  • The ICE U.S. Dollar Index DXY, a measure of the currency against a basket of six major rivals, was down by about 0.2%.
  • December gold futures GCZ21 finished 2.1% lower at $1,726.50 an ounce, after tumbling as low as $1,672.80 in Asian trading.
  • In European equities, the Stoxx Europe 600 SXXP closed up 0.2%, while London’s FTSE 100 UKX rose 0.1%.
  • In Asia, the Shanghai Composite SHCOMP fell 1.1% and the Hang Seng Index HSI rose 0.4%, while markets in Japan were closed.

Barbara Kollmeyer contributed reporting