(Reuters) – Wall Street’s main indexes slid 2% on Wednesday, as a record drop in retail sales and dour first-quarter earnings reports lent weight to forecasts for the biggest economic slump since the Great Depression.
U.S. retail sales plunged 8.7% in March, setting up consumer spending for its worst decline in decades, while a separate survey showed manufacturing activity in New York state plunged in April to its lowest in the series’ history.
Bank of America (BAC.N), Goldman Sachs Group Inc (GS.N) and Citigroup Inc (C.N) fell between 2.2% and 4.6% as they joined JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N) and Wells Fargo & Co (WFC.N) in setting aside billions to cover potential loan losses tied to the coronavirus pandemic.
The banking subsector .SPXBK declined 5.2%, falling for the third straight day.
“Investors need a strong stomach to stick with stocks through some bad earnings reports in the coming days, weeks and months,” said David Trainer, chief executive officer of investment research firm New Constructs in Nashville, Tennessee.
“Earnings and coronavirus are tightly intertwined and the more progress there is on coronavirus, the sooner economic activity resumes and earnings rebound.”
Analysts expect earnings for S&P 500 firms to slide 12.3% in the first quarter, while the International Monetary Fund has predicted the global economy would shrink 3% in 2020, its sharpest downturn since the Great Depression.
The benchmark S&P 500 .SPX has climbed about 26% from its March trough, lifted by a raft of U.S. monetary and fiscal stimulus and on early signs that coronavirus cases were peaking in some hotspots, but the index is still down about 18% from its record high.
The main indexes surged on Tuesday on hopes the Trump administration could move to ease lockdowns. However, New York later sharply raised its official virus death toll to more than 10,000.
“Overall it feels like we’re pricing in closer to a ‘V-shaped’ recovery at the moment, but it’s clearly difficult to disentangle the impact that the extraordinary support from the authorities is having,” said Jim Reid, strategist at Deutsche Bank.
At 10:07 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI was down 558.11 points, or 2.33%, at 23,391.65, the S&P 500 .SPX was down 71.28 points, or 2.50%, at 2,774.78. The Nasdaq Composite .IXIC was down 178.63 points, or 2.10%, at 8,337.11.
J.C. Penney Co Inc (JCP.N) slumped 25.7% as sources said the retailer was exploring filing for bankruptcy protection after the virus outbreak upended its turnaround plans.
The biggest U.S. health insurer UnitedHealth Group Inc (UNH.N) rose 2.8% as it maintained its 2020 profit outlook at a time when major companies have withdrawn forecasts due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Energy stocks .SPNY slipped 5.5%, the most among the S&P sectors as oil prices tumbled after reports suggested persistent oversupply and collapsing global demand.
Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 11.89-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and a 6.69-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.
The S&P index recorded three new 52-week highs and no new low, while the Nasdaq recorded four new highs and nine new lows.
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