Stocks fell from Wall Street to Tokyo Monday due to fears of a pandemic that could spread faster than expected and threaten the strong recovery.
After setting a record last week, the S&P 500 lost 2.1% in afternoon trades. Another sign of concern was the fact that the yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to its lowest level in five years, as investors searched for safer places to invest their money.
As of 1:50 p.m. Eastern, the Dow Jones Industrial Average had fallen 935 points or 2.7% to 33,753. The Nasdaq composite was 1.4% less.
Airlines and stocks in other companies that could be affected by COVID-19 restrictions suffered some of the worst losses. These losses were similar to those experienced during the pandemic of February and March 2020. United Airlines lost 6.2%, Simon Property Group, a mall owner, dropped 6%, while Carnival, a cruise operator, fell 5.6%.
Many European markets fell by 2.5%, while Asian indexes dropped slightly less. After OPEC, allied countries agreed on Sunday that higher oil production would be allowed, the benchmark U.S. crude price plunged more than 7%.
People living in areas where masks are being removed or have been removed by COVID-19 vaccinations may find it strange that there are increasing concerns about the virus. The World Health Organization reports that cases and deaths have increased worldwide after a period in decline due to the highly contagious Delta variant. Because the global economy is so interconnected, any hit can easily affect other parts of the world.
Even in the U.S. where the vaccination rate has been higher than in many countries, residents of Los Angeles County have to wear masks inside, regardless of whether or not they’ve been vaccinated.
The daily COVID count has increased by almost 20,000 in the past two weeks, to 32,000 across the country. The vaccine campaign is at a halt. The average daily dose of vaccines has fallen to its lowest level since January. Cases are rising in all 50 states.
Markets are worried, even though reports indicate that the economy is still recovering at an impressive rate and there is a general expectation of continued growth. Stocks are at risk of losing the high prices they have achieved due to fears that virus trends will worsen.
While financial markets have shown signs of increasing concern for some time, the U.S. stock exchange has remained resilient. Only two weeks of decline have occurred in the S&P 500 over the past eight. The last time the S&P 500 saw a 5% drop from a record high was October.
While analyzing Monday’s drop, several analysts pointed out the backdrop of very calm movements and high prices for weeks.
“It’s a bit overreactive, but when you have market at record highs and that has had virtually no pullback, it becomes very vulnerable to any kind of bad news,” Randy Frederick, vice-president of trading & derivatives, Charles Schwab. It was only a matter of when that tipping point would be, and it appears we have reached that this morning,” said Randy Frederick, vice president of trading & derivatives at Charles Schwab.
Analysts like him are positive stocks will rebound quickly. Recent training has taught investors to view every stock dip as an opportunity to purchase low.
Barry Bannister was the chief equity strategist at Stifel. He was also more pessimistic. According to him, the stock market could be experiencing a 10% drop after the big price rise. After hitting its lowest point in March 2020, the S&P 500 almost doubled.
He said, “The valuations just got too foamy.” “There was so much optimism out here.”
The warnings from the bond market have been more loud and persistent. The 10-year Treasury yield tends to follow inflation expectations and economic growth. It has been falling since March when it was around 1.75%. It dropped to 1.19% Monday, from 1.29% on Friday.
Professional investors and analysts believe there are many reasons for the sudden movements in the bond market. The bond market is considered more rational and prudent than the stock market. The real danger is that the economy could slow down from its current high growth rate.
Other than the coronavirus variants, there are other threats to the economy such as the fading pandemic relief efforts by the U.S. government or a Federal Reserve that appears to be beginning to reduce its support for markets later in the year.
Monday’s selling pressure was widespread with almost 95% of S&P 500 stocks lower. Even stocks in the Big Tech sector were dropping, with Apple falling 3% and Microsoft falling 1.6%. These stocks appeared almost immune to virus concerns during previous downturns and rose on the expectation that they will continue growing almost regardless how strong the economy is.
Even companies that reported strong profit growth were affected by the downturn. Tractor Supply reported that its quarterly profit and revenue exceeded Wall Street’s expectations but that its stock dropped 4.5%.
Analysts across the S&P 500 are predicting profit growth of almost 70% in the second quarter compared to a year ago. This would be the highest growth rate since 2009, when the economy had been recovering from the Great Recession.
Analysts are trying to predict how much the economy’s growth will slow over the next quarters and years in order to maximize corporate profits.