U.S. stocks were trading lower Tuesday afternoon as investors saw some setbacks to the efforts of U.S. drugmakers to come up with an effective vaccine and therapeutic to 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 (DJIA) fell 218 points, or 0.8%, to 28,620, while the S&P 500 (SPX) was down 28 points, or 0.8%, at 3,506. The Nasdaq Composite (COMP) edged 23 points lower, or 0.2%, to 11,853.
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.
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 (JNJ)announced a pause of all of its COVID-19 vaccine trials. And The New York Times reported a clinical trial for a coronavirus antibody treatment made by Eli Lilly (LLY) was paused because of a “potential safety concern.”
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. (C) also reported third-quarter profit and revenue that topped expectations, helped by strength in its institutional clients business and stabilizing credit costs. BlackRock Inc. BLKsaid 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 earnings, the kick off of Amazon.com‘s (AMZN)two-day sales event and the presumed launch of Apple Inc.’s (AAPL)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.
What are other markets doing?
In global equities, the Shanghai Composite (CN:SHCOMP) rose marginally, while Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index (JP:NIK) gained 0.4%. The pan-European Stoxx 600 Europe index (XX:SXXP) fell around 0.6% and London’s FTSE 100 stock index (UK:UKX) lost 0.5%.
Oil futures bounced, with the U.S. benchmark (CRUD) 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 (GOLD) 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 (DXY) a measure of the currency against a basket of six major rivals, was up 0.5%.