By Stephen Culp
NEW YORK, Jan 21 – Wall Street backed away from all-time highs on Tuesday as investors returned from a holiday weekend to face a viral outbreak in China and a downbeat global growth outlook from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
All three major U.S. stock averages were down following several days of record closing highs and their best one-week advance in months.
The indexes extended their losses after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the first U.S. case of the coronavirus, which has now killed six people in China.
“The fear is this could mushroom into an epidemic that could cut into economic activity,” said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Spartan Capital Securities in New York. “If it turns into an epidemic, who’s going to fly?”
Indeed, with the outbreak occurring just before the Chinese lunar new year, the news hit travel-related stocks the hardest.
The NYSE Arca Airline index dropped 3.7%.
United Airlines was down 5.3%, while Carnival Corp dipped 2.6%.
Hotel and casino operators Las Vegas Sands Corp and Wynn Resorts Ltd, both of which have sizable operations in China, were down 5.0% and 6.6%, respectively.
Booking.com owner Booking Holdings Inc and TripAdvisor Inc were both off more than 2%.
Steel stocks, which have a sizable exposure to China, also fell. United States Steel Corp was down 6.1%.
Boeing Co weighed heaviest on the blue-chip Dow, its shares falling 5.5% following reports the planemaker’s 737 MAX might not win approval to return to service until June or July.
In other news, the IMF trimmed its global economic growth forecasts for 2020 and 2021, with Managing Director Kristalina Georgiev citing lasting impact from the bruising U.S.-China trade war and sharper-than-expected slowdowns in India and other emerging markets.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 174.19 points, or 0.59%, to 29,173.91, the S&P 500 lost 8.22 points, or 0.25%, to 3,321.4 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 22.07 points, or 0.24%, to 9,366.88.
Of the 11 major sectors in the S&P 500 six were trading in the red, with energy and industrials suffering the largest percentage drops.
Real estate led the gainers.
Fourth quarter earnings season continues apace, with Netflix Inc and International Business Machines Corp expected to post results after the bell.
Oilfield services company Halliburton Co disclosed a $2.2 billion charge for asset impairments during the quarter, pressured by weakening North American shale activity. Excluding the charge, the company beat earnings estimates. Its shares rose 0.1%
Netflix Inc shares were down 1.3% ahead of its quarterly report.
Members-only chain store Costco Wholesale Corp jumped 2.5% after Oppenheimer upgraded the shares to “outperform.”
Intel Corp was up 2.0% after three brokers raised their price targets for the chipmaker’s shares.
Electric automaker Tesla Inc rose 6.2% after new Street Research upped its price target to $800 per share.
Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 1.62-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.69-to-1 ratio favored decliners.
The S&P 500 posted 87 new 52-week highs and one new low; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 125 new highs and 33 new lows. (Reporting by Stephen Culp; Editing by Tom Brown)