Stocks dropped sharply, pointing to another volatile day on Wall Street as investors nervously eyed elevated coronavirus case counts in the U.S. and Europe, weighed outcomes of Election Day next week and contemplated when another round of fiscal stimulus out of Washington might get passed.
The drop in domestic equities came alongside a plunge in European stocks, with the STOXX 600 selling off and hitting the lowest level since May. Concerns of even more restrictions across the region weighed on global risk assets, with French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday imposing a new national lockdown, effective Friday, as cases in the region jump. Germany also announced a one-month partial lockdown earlier in the day, which will span all of November.
In the U.S., hospitalizations related to COVID-19 have risen by at least 10% over the past week across 32 U.S. states and Washington, D.C., according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
The CBOE Volatility Index (^VIX) jumped more than 18% to its highest level since June. Contracts on the Dow tumbled more than 700 points mid-morning. Component Microsoft dropped even after the tech giant reported quarterly revenue that grew a better-than-expected 12% as its Azure cloud offering accelerated sales growth from the previous period. Guidance for some business units’ current-quarter performance came in light, however.
Tech stocks remained in focus on Wednesday. The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation held a hearing with Twitter (TWTR) CEO Jack Dorsey, Facebook (FB) CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Alphabet (GOOG, GOOGL) CEO Sundar Pichai to discuss Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which has to date helped protect online platforms from liability over user-created content.
The three tech executives offered a vocal defense of these legal protections, with Dorsey calling Section 230 “the Internet’s most important law for free speech and safety.” Zuckerberg maintained that Section 230 “encourages free expression” and “allows platforms to moderate content.” However, Zuckerberg also noted he was open to Congress updating “the law to make sure it’s working as intended.”
Later Wednesday after market close, firms including Ford (F), Etsy (ETSY), Pinterest (PINS) and Gilead Sciences (GILD) will report quarterly results. As of Tuesday morning, companies comprising about 32% of the S&P 500’s market capitalization had reported third-quarter results, with earnings topping estimates by 16.1% in aggregate so far, according to an analysis by Credit Suisse. Still, the bar to clear was relatively low, with analysts heading into third-quarter earnings season looking for an aggregate drop in S&P 500 earnings per share (EPS) of about 20% over last year.
4:03 p.m. ET: Dow sheds 942 points, or 3.4% for biggest one-day drop since June as virus concerns flare
Here were the main moves in markets as of 4:03 p.m. ET:
S&P 500 (^GSPC): -119.48 (-3.52%) to 3,271.20
Dow (^DJI): -942.12 (-3.43%) to 26,521.07
Nasdaq (^IXIC): -426.48 (-3.73%) to 11,004.87
Crude (CL=F): -$2.23 (-5.64%) to $37.34 a barrel
Gold (GC=F): -$33.10 (-1.73%) to $1,878.80 per ounce
10-year Treasury (^TNX): +0.3 bps to yield 0.7810%
3:14 p.m. ET: France’s Macron imposes another lockdown on country starting on Friday
French President Emmanuel Macron said on Wednesday that the country will go back into lockdown starting Friday through Dec. 1, as the virus spreads across the region at an unexpectedly fast pace.
Schools will be allowed to remain open during the lockdown and some work will be able to continue. However, bars, restaurants and non-essential retailers will need to close, and the external borders of the country will be shut, Macron said.
1:15 p.m. ET: Stocks hit day’s lows as Germany announces new lockdowns
As the continent faces a resurgence of COVID-19 infections, Europe’s largest economy announced it plans to shut down bars, restaurants, theaters and gyms to curb the spread. France may also slap similar restrictions on its economy. Worth noting that Germany’s measures are less restrictive than those seen in the spring when the virus first appeared.
Investors, at least partly fearful that the U.S. could follow suit as the recovery falters, are laying siege to stocks. The Dow sank by more than 900 points intraday, with technology stocks also taking a beating.
12:04 p.m. ET: Facebook, Twitter, Alphabet shares drop as CEOS get grilled by lawmakers over content moderation practices
Shares of Big Tech firms Facebook, Twitter and Alphabet each underperformed Wednesday afternoon as CEOs of the companies endured a tough line of questioning from senators over their content moderation practices.
Twitter led the drop as shares fell more than 5%. The stock hit session lows after Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) slammed Dorsey about Twitter’s decision to curb the distribution of New York Post articles that made allegations about Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and Hunter Biden.
Dorsey said the decision to limit the spread of the post was because Twitter has a policy around “limiting the spread of materials that are hacked,” and initially had been uncertain about how information included in the New York Post articles had been obtained. Dorsey said the New York Post, which has not posted to its Twitter page in two weeks, could go into its account, delete the original tweet about the reporting for the article, and republish it without issue now.
“Your position is that you can sit in Silicon Valley and demand of the media that you can tell them what stories they can publish and you can tell the American people what reporting they can hear,” Cruz said to Dorsey.
10:34 a.m. ET: Stock selloff accelerates, Dow sheds more than 700 points
The three major indices added to losses mid-morning on Wednesday.
A drop in Dow Inc. and Visa shares led declines in the Dow Jones Industrial Average. The index dropped 730 points, or 2.7%, and was tracking toward its worst day since September 3. The S&P 500 dropped 2.7% as well and was pacing toward its worst one-day loss since September 8, as the energy and information technology sectors lagged.
The Nasdaq underperformed as Big Tech stocks dropped, with the index off 2.8% to head toward its worst day since September 23.
9:53 a.m. ET: Boeing announces more job cuts as global airline industry continues to get hammered by virus
Boeing (BA) on Wednesday said it is set to bring its workforce down to 130,000 by the end of 2021, after starting the year with a headcount of 160,000, according to a statement released in tandem with its third-quarter earnings results.
The company had already announced thousands of headcount reductions due to attrition and layoffs earlier this year, and the latest round of cuts will impact another about 7,000 jobs. Earlier this month, Boeing had forecast an 11% slump in commercial aircraft demand over the next decade, in a testament to the longer-standing issues for the industry brought about by the pandemic.
In third-quarter earnings results, Boeing delivered a narrower than expected loss for the three months to the end of September, and operating cash burn that wa. The company noted, however, that it was still “significantly impacted” by the ongoing pandemic and global grounding of the 737 Max jet.
9:34 a.m. ET: UPS, General Electric reported third-quarter results that top expectations
UPS posted adjusted earnings of $2.28 per share on revenue of $21.2 billion, with each better than the $1.90 per share on revenue of $20.3 billion anticipated. Growth was broad-based during the quarter as e-commerce demand and outbound package demand out of Asia held up strongly. Each of US package revenue, international package revenue and supply chain and freight sales rose by at least 15% over last year. Adjusted operating margins narrowed slightly to 11.3% from 12%, however.
General Electric posted a surprise profit in the third quarter, as CEO Larry Culp’s multi-year turnaround plan and cash preservation strategy showed signs of paying off despite ongoing weakness in the company’s aviation business. The company posted positive industrial free cash flow of $514 million, whereas an outflow of $960 million had been expected. GE expects industrial free cash flow will be at least $2.5 billion in the current quarter.
9:31 a.m. ET: Stocks plunge at the open, Dow sheds 500+ points
Here were the main moves in markets, as of 9:31 a.m. ET:
S&P 500 (^GSPC): -62.44 points (-1.84%) to 3,328.24
Dow (^DJI): -551.42 points (-2.01%) to 26,911.77
Nasdaq (^IXIC): -194.56 (-1.75%) to 11,231.82
Crude (CL=F): -$2.26 (-5.71%) to $37.31 a barrel
Gold (GC=F): -$33.00 (-1.73%) to $1,878.90 per ounce
10-year Treasury (^TNX): -2.9 bps to yield 0.754%
8:31 a.m. ET: Goods trade deficit unexpectedly narrowed in September, but remains wider than year-ago levels
The U.S. goods trade deficit narrowed to $79.4 billion in September from $83.1 billion in August, according to the Commerce Department’s monthly report on Wednesday. Consensus economists were bracing for the deficit to widen to $84.5 billion, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to weigh on global commerce.
Exports in September increased by $3.2 billion to $122.0 billion, while imports declined by $500 million to $201.4 billion.
Still, exports remain nearly 10% lower than the $135.4 billion they were at in September 2019. The headline trade deficit in September 2020 also remained wider than that of September 2019, when the trade deficit was $71.1 billion.
7:27 a.m. ET Wednesday: Stock futures point sharply lower
Here were the main moves in markets, as of 7:27 a.m. ET:
S&P 500 futures (ES=F): 3,335.25, down 47.75 points or 1.41%
Dow futures (YM=F): 26,875.00, down 490 points or 1.79%
Nasdaq futures (NQ=F): 11,462.00, down 126 points or 1.09%
Crude (CL=F): -$1.84 (-4.65%) to $37.73 a barrel
Gold (GC=F): -$17.30 (-0.9%) to $1,894.60 per ounce
10-year Treasury (^TNX): -1.7 bps to yield 0.761%
6:12 p.m. ET Tuesday: Stock futures open lower
Here were the main moves in markets, as of 6:12 p.m. ET:
S&P 500 futures (ES=F): 3,367.00, down 16 points or 0.47%
Dow futures (YM=F): 27245.00, down 120 points or 0.44%
Nasdaq futures (NQ=F): 11,549.00, down 39 points or 0.34%