Stock futures were mixed Tuesday morning as momentum from Monday’s rally lost steam. Contracts on the S&P 500 and Dow each ticked down after both indices posted record closing highs a day earlier.
After Moderna’s (MRNA) released preliminary data Monday morning showing its vaccine candidate was 94.5% effective in preventing coronavirus infections, investors are set to watch to see whether equities follow a similar playbook as they did last week, when news that Pfizer’s (PFE) vaccine candidate was 90% effective in preventing COVID-19 first emerged. That announcement had sparked a knee-jerk rally in cyclical and value shares that unwound mid-week, but then reignited again on Monday after Moderna’s announcement.
“We saw such a positive reaction last week which then petered out as investors started to take account of all of those various question marks that still remain,” Seema Shah, Principal Global Investors’ chief strategist, told Yahoo Finance on Monday. “We’ll need to see a continuation of this kind of good news to keep this rotation going.”
“But I think that even if we take account of all the various question marks that are out there, next year still looks pretty strong,” she added. “Not only do we have a potential vaccine in play, but we also have all the central banks providing endless liquidity. We have fiscal stimulus on the cards and of course we have an economic recovery which either is going to be ongoing. So I think as investors look at this, there are a lot of reasons to have a pro-cyclical trade on. It’s just a question of maybe maintaining some caution as you move into that.”
Other strategists have also underscored the near-term risks to equities, while acknowledging the more sustained rally that may arise later next year. In a note Monday, Morgan Stanley strategist Mike Wilson said he expects the S&P 500 will be range-bound between 3,150 and 3,550 as the market grapples with rising new COVID-19 cases and restrictions, before jumping to 3,900 by year-end next year. In some of the latest new virus-related restrictions, California on Monday sharply rolled back reopening plans across the state, and Michigan announced a partial lockdown starting Wednesday and lasting for three weeks.
Shares of AbbVie (ABBV), Merck & Co. (MRK) and Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY) each rose in late trading, after Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway disclosed it newly added stakes in the three health-care stocks to its portfolio. Shares of Costco (COST) rose overnight after declaring a special cash dividend of $10 per share, helping offset worries even after Berkshire Hathaway disclosed it exited its entire position in the stock during the third quarter.
8:30 a.m. ET: Retail sales rise less than expected in October
U.S. retail sales increased by 0.3% in October over September, according to the Commerce Department’s advance monthly report, following a downwardly revised 1.6% rise during the previous month. October’s increase missed consensus estimates for a 0.5% rise, according to Bloomberg data. Still, it marked a sixth straight month-over-month rise.
Excluding auto and gas sales, retail sales increased 0.2%, also short of the 0.6% advance expected.
7:25 a.m. ET: Walmart shares rise after comparable sales top estimates again, digital sales hold up
Walmart (WMT), America’s largest retailer, posted third-quarter sales growth that blew past consensus expectations, as customers continued to stock up on essentials during the ongoing pandemic. Walmart’s U.S. comparable sales, excluding gas, increased 7.1%, versus the 4.3% rise expected, according to Bloomberg data.
Adjusted earnings of $1.34 per share were better than the $1.18 expected, and the bottom-line beat came even after the company incurred $600 million in incremental costs related to COVID-19. E-commerce sales grew 79% after nearly doubling in the quarter prior. Walmart also noted that it experienced record high sales volume in grocery pick-up and delivery, and in general merchandise, home, electronics, toys and sporting goods led demand.
“Customers continued to consolidate store shopping trips with significantly larger average baskets and shifted more purchases to e-commerce,” Walmart said in a presentation. “Q3 sales accelerated in September due in part to delayed back-to-school spending, and this momentum continued throughout October; grocery sales strengthened as the quarter progressed led by strong food comps.”
7:17 a.m. ET: Home Depot shares fall after company says it’s spending more on worker compensation, overshadowing another quarter of strong sales
Home Depot (HD) reported third-quarter results that again topped estimates, as customers continued to spend on home-improvement projects. However, shares fell in early trading after the company indicated it was spending more on virus-related measures, and said it plans to spend $1 billion of incremental compensation on an annualized basis for compensation for front-line workers.
Comparable sales in the U.S. climbed 24.1% in the third quarter, well above the 17.4% consensus estimate, and holding about steady after a 25% gain in the second quarter. Net sales of $33.5 billion grew 23% over last year, and earnings of $3.18 per share were better than anticipated by 13 cents.
“The third quarter was another exceptional quarter for The Home Depot as we saw the continuation of outsized demand for home improvement projects,” CEO Craig Menear said in a statement.
7:08 a.m. Tuesday: Kohl’s 3Q sales fall more than expected, company says it will reinstate dividend
Kohl’s (KSS) reported a third straight drop in quarterly sales as the department store continued to come under pressure during the COVID-19 pandemic. Cost-cutting measures, however, helped the company post an unexpected adjusted profit, whereas a loss was expected.
Third quarter comparable sales fell 13.3%, or worse than the 12.3% decline anticipated. Overall sales of $3.78 billion were down 13% over last year, improving from a 23% drop in the quarter prior. Adjusted earnings came in at a penny per share, or much better than the loss of 44 cents per share anticipated. And the company noted it also plans to a dividend in the first half of 2021.
“Our third quarter results exceeded our expectations with significant sequential sales and profitability improvement. Digital sales growth remained strong and our actions to improve our gross margin showed great progress,” CEO Michelle Gass said in a statement. “We entered the holiday season well-positioned and prepared to serve our customers with more omni-channel conveniences in place to deliver the great experience they always expect from Kohl’s.”
6:10 p.m. ET Monday: Stock futures open higher
Here were the main moves in markets, as of 6:10 p.m. ET Monday evening:
S&P 500 futures (ES=F): 3,626.75, up 3.75 points or 0.1%
Dow futures (YM=F): 29,880.00, up 15 points or 0.05%
Nasdaq futures (NQ=F): 12,071.5, up 66.5 points or 0.55%