Wall Street ends lower on lockdown fears, likely delay of stimulus

The spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in New York

By Herbert Lash

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Wall Street’s main indexes tumbled on Monday as concerns about new lockdowns in Europe and possible delays in fresh stimulus from Congress raised fears the U.S. economy faces a longer road to recovery than previously hoped for.

The death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg also appeared to make the passage of another stimulus package in Congress less likely before the Nov. 3 presidential election, sparking large declines in the healthcare sector.

The Dow shed as much as 900 points and the CBOE Market Volatility index <.VIX>, Wall Street’s fear gauge, shot up to its highest level in nearly two weeks. The S&P 500 ended down about 9% from its record close on Sept. 2.

Economic concerns are weighing most heavily on stocks, said David Joy, chief market strategist at Ameriprise.

“Although nothing is being spared, the economically sensitive groups are getting hit the hardest,” said Joy, adding that “Washington appears to be no closer to a possible fourth stimulus package.”

Congress has for weeks remained deadlocked over the size and shape of another coronavirus-response bill, on top of the roughly $3 trillion already enacted into law.

Healthcare providers came under pressure on uncertainty over the fate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), better known as Obamacare, with shares of Universal Health Services <UHS.N> falling hard.

Ginsburg’s death could lead to a tie vote when the Supreme Court hears a challenge to the constitutionality of ACA in November, Mizuho, Stephens Inc and other financial services firms said.

“It just kind of crowds out the agenda, the idea that we are going to get a fiscal stimulus package before the election,” said Ed Campbell, portfolio manager and managing director at QMA in Newark, New Jersey.

“There is also just general election-related jitters … and possibly that we have a contested or delayed outcome.”

Wall Street has tumbled in the past three weeks as investors dumped heavyweight technology-related stocks following a stunning rally that lifted the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq to new highs after plunging in March as economies entered recession.

A new round of business restrictions would threaten a nascent recovery and further pressure equity markets. The first lockdowns in March led the S&P 500 to suffer its worst monthly decline since the global financial crisis.

In contrast to last week’s downturn, declines were led by value-oriented sectors such as industrials <.SPLRCI>, energy <.SPNY> and financials <.SPSY> as opposed to technology stocks <.SPLRCT>.

Airline, hotel and cruise companies tracked declines in their European peers as Britain signaled the possibility of a second national lockdown. Europe’s travel and leisure index <.SXTP> marked its worst two-day drop since April.

Among the largest gainers on the Nasdaq 100 was Zoom Video Communications Inc <ZM.OQ>, which rose on the prospect that fresh lockdowns would spur greater use of the product.

Unofficially, the Dow Jones Industrial Average <.DJI> fell 2% to end at 27,102.99 points, while the S&P 500 <.SPX> lost 1.28% to 3,276.87. The Nasdaq Composite <.IXIC> dropped 0.22%, to 10,769.20.

JPMorgan Chase & Co <JPM.N> and Bank of New York Mellon Corp <BK.N> fell on reports that several global banks moved large sums of allegedly illicit funds over nearly two decades despite red flags about the origins of the money.

Nikola Corp <NKLA.O> plunged after its founder, Trevor Milton, stepped down as executive chairman following a public squabble with a short-seller over allegations of nepotism and fraud.

General Motors Co <GM.N>, which recently said it would take an 11% stake in the electric truck maker, also slipped.

(Reporting by Herbert Lash in New York; Additional reporting by Devik Jain and Shreyashi Sanyal in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva and Matthew Lewis)