U.S. stocks fell aggressively Monday on concern a rebound in Covid-19 cases would slow global economic growth. The selling picked up as the session continued and the Dow Jones Industrial average was currently headed for its biggest drop of the year.
The Dow dropped 732 points, or 2.1%, exceeded a 2% decline seen in late January. The S&P 500 fell 1.8% with energy and industrial sectors the worst performers. The Nasdaq Composite lost 1.7%. The Dow was on pace for its biggest one-day decline in more than a month.
The 10-year Treasury yield fell to a new 5-month low of 1.202%, further exasperating fears about the slowing economy.
“You have two concerns coming together this morning: concerns about market technicals and concerns about growth,” Mohamed El-Erian, Chief Economic Adviser of Allianz and former CEO of PIMCO said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” Monday morning. “That’s what all the asset classes are telling you this morning.”
Covid cases have rebounded in the U.S. this month with the delta variant spreading among the unvaccinated. The U.S. is averaging nearly 30,000 new cases a day in the last 7-days ending Friday, up from a 7-day average of around 11,000 cases a day a month ago, according to CDC data. Cases were already flaring up around the world because of the delta variant.
United and American Airlines shares lost more than 4% in the morning. Delta fell 3.7%. Along with shares of cruise lines and airlines, key stocks linked to the global economy pulled back. Boeing and General Motors lost more than 3% and Caterpillar lost about 2%.
“The market appears ready to take on a more defensive character as we experience a meaningful deceleration in earnings and economic growth,” wrote Mike Wilson, Morgan Stanley’s chief U.S. equity strategist, in a note Monday. “Market breadth has been deteriorating for months and is just another confirmation of the mid-cycle transition, in our view. It usually ends with a material (10-20%) index level correction.”
Wilson is advising clients to buy staples such as Mondelez International to weather the decline.
Oil prices fell on fears of slowing growth and as OPEC+ agreed to begin phasing out production cuts. Energy stocks were among the worst performers in the market, with with ConocoPhillips off by more than 3%. Exxon Mobil lost 3%. WTI crude shed 5% to about $68.12 a barrel.
Banks took a hit as yields fell, crimping their profitability prospects. JPMorgan and Bank of America each dropped about 2.5%.
Certain defensive stocks gained amid the market sell-off. Walmart and Procter & Gamble shares traded into the green, along with many utilities stocks.
Big Tech shares were not immune to the sell-off with Apple and Alphabet each down more than 2%.
A busy week of earnings is on deck, with nine Dow components set to report and 76 S&P companies will provide quarterly updates. United Airlines and American Airlines will report, as will social media companies Snap and Twitter. CSX, Johnson & Johnson, Coca-Cola, Honeywell, IBM, Intel and Netflix are also on the docket.
“We’ve been in this trading range…this rotational market — value to growth, growth to value,” said Stephanie Link, chief investment strategist and portfolio manager at Hightower, on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” Monday. “I think we’re kind of in this pattern until we can hear from companies.”
The largest banks kicked off earnings season last week, and analysts at BMO noted that ahead of the start to earnings season 66 companies in the S&P 500 issued positive earnings guidance for the quarter, which is the largest since at least 2006.
“Q2 earnings season is here and another stellar reporting period is expected for US stocks with the S&P 500 y/y EPS growth rate currently sitting at 65.5%, which would mark the strongest clip since Q4 ’09,” the firm said in a recent note to clients.
The Dow and S&P fell 0.52% and 0.97% last week, respectively. The Nasdaq Composite, meanwhile, was the relative underperformer, dropping 1.87%, to post its worst week since May. It was the major averages first negative week in four.
Inflation fears weighed on stocks last week, with a U.S. consumer sentiment index from the University of Michigan released on Friday showing that consumers believe prices will jump 4.8% over the next year. This is the steepest climb since August 2008. Earlier in the week, the June Consumer Price Index showed that inflation jumped 5.4% year-over-year, spooking investors.
Despite Monday’s decline, the overall damage to the market remains tame. The S&P 500 is still just 3% below its record reached last week.