Dow, S&P 500 breaks four-day win streak as J&J and Eli Lilly pause COVID-19 drug trials

U.S. stocks ended slightly lower in a choppy Tuesday session as investors saw some U.S. drugmakers face setbacks in vaccine or treatment trials for the COVID-19 disease.

Wall Street participants also parsed earnings from some of the biggest financial institutions, to start the third-quarter reporting season.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average

fell157.71 points or 0.55% to 28679.81, while the S&P 500

was dow 22.29 points or 0.63% to 3511.93. The Nasdaq Composite

edged 12.36 points lower, or 0.1%, to close at 11,863.90. All three major equity benchmarks snapped their four-day win streak.

On Monday, the Dow rose 250.62 points, or 0.9%, to 28,837.52. The S&P 500 added 57.09 points, or 1.6%, to 3,534.22 while the Nasdaq Composite climbed 296.32 points, or 2.6%, to 11,876.26. It was the fourth straight day of gains for all three benchmark indexes.

What’s driving the market?

Wall Street saw some signs that the U.S. pharmaceutical industry was facing challenges in its pursuit of a remedy for COVID-19, which has infected more than 37 million people globally so far, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.

Pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson

announced a pause of all of its COVID-19 vaccine trials. And a clinical trial for a coronavirus antibody treatment made by Eli Lilly

was paused because of a “potential safety concern.”

Investors were also digesting earnings results from JPMorgan Chase
which produced better-than-expected earnings but delivered slightly weaker-than-expected revenues.

The nation’s largest bank said Tuesday it had net income of $9.443 billion, or $2.92 a share in the third quarter, compared with $9.080 billion, or $2.68 a share, in the year-earlier period. However, revenue fell to $29.941 billion from $30.014 billion. The main reason for the surge in EPS was a fall in loan loss provisions which dropped by 90% to only $611 million.

“I look at the [fall in loan loss reverses] as a positive, but markets are suggesting a more different view,” said Kent Engelke, chief economic strategist at Capitol Securities, in an interview. Setting aside less cash in case of future losses suggests bankers were predicting decreased distress in the economy and businesses in the coming months, added Engelke.

Citigroup Inc.

reported third-quarter profit and revenue that topped expectations, helped by strength in its institutional clients business and stabilizing credit costs. BlackRock Inc. BLK said that its quarterly profit rose by 22% as investors flocked to its suite of investment funds amid a volatile period, but a mostly dramatic rise, in equity markets.

Beyond corporate earnings, the kick off of‘s

two-day sales event and the launch of Apple Inc.’s

new iPhone roster of 5G-compatible phones drew attention, as investors assess how consumers respond in the era of a pandemic that has weakened the economy.

Stalled talks in Congress around another package of coronavirus financial assistance also were on the minds of market participants and come against the backdrop of reports of the smallest increase in new coronavirus infections in a week in the U.S.

“On the political front, not much is changing as [Democratic challenger Joe] Biden continues to hold a considerable lead [over President Donald Trump] nationally as well as in key swing states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin,” said Yousef Abbasi, global market strategist at StoneX, in a note.

Investors have become comfortable with the potential for a Democratic party sweep of both the White House and Congress on expectations that such an outcome would lead to a larger, near-term fiscal stimulus package early next year, analysts said.

“The latest stimulus narrative suggests nothing in the near-term but the prospects of the ‘Blue Wave’ certainly paves the way for larger, future stimulus. In the meantime, the markets appear to be balancing COVID concerns with the political outlook and the prospects of stimulus,” Abbasi said.

Meanwhile, hospitals in some parts of the country are seeing a rise in the number of coronavirus patients ahead of the winter flu season. U.S. hospitalizations are at the highest level since Sept. 2, according to data from the COVID Tracking Project, The Wall Street Journal reported.

In economic data, the September consumer-price index rose 0.2%, in line with forecasts.

Which stocks are in focus?

  • Shares of JPMorgan Chase fell 1.6% after it announced third-quarter results.

  • Walt Disney Co. shares

    jumped 3.2% Tuesday after the entertainment giant late Monday announced a strategic reorganization of its media and entertainment businesses to focus on streaming.

  • shares were flat as the company is expected to generate some $10 billion in sales from its Prime Day sales event, experts say.

  • Apple Inc.

    shares fell 2.7%.

  • Shares of J&J closed 2.3% lower after the company announced the pause of its COVID-19 trial.

  • BlackRock‘s stock rose 3.9% after its results.

  • Citigroup shares slid 4.9% after its earnings release.

  • Shares of Eli Lilly slipped 2.9%.

What are other markets doing?

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note

fell 4.9 basis points to 0.726%, marking its biggest daily drop in around 4 months. Yields and bond prices move in opposite directions.

In global equities, the Shanghai Composite

rose marginally, while Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index

gained 0.4%. The pan-European Stoxx 600 Europe index

fell around 0.6% and London’s FTSE 100 stock index

lost 0.5%.

Oil futures bounced, with the U.S. benchmark

gaining 77 cents, or 1.95% to settle at $40.20 per barrel after data showed a rise in Chinese crude imports. December gold futures

fell by $34.30, or 1.8%, to settle at $1,894.60 an ounce, after posting gains in each of the past three trading sessions.

The ICE U.S. Dollar Index
a measure of the currency against a basket of six major rivals, was up 0.5%.

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