Wall Street slips on rising U.S.-China tensions, recovery worries

(Reuters) – Wall Street’s main indexes eased on Thursday from more than two-month highs hit in the previous session, as growing Sino-U.S. tensions and concerns about a rebound from a coronavirus-led economic slump hit sentiment.

The three indexes have risen in four of the past five sessions, but have lost steam amid mixed headlines on progress in developing a coronavirus vaccine and a return of U.S.-China trade tensions to the forefront.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday again criticized Beijing’s handling of the outbreak and a Chinese official said the country will not flinch from any escalation in tensions.

The souring relations have made investors nervous about the Phase 1 trade deal signed between the world’s two largest economies earlier this year.

“There are a lot of things that the markets are trying to work their way through – the virus, the vaccine and on top of it, now trade issues,” said Paul Nolte, portfolio manager at Kingsview Asset Management in Chicago.

Analysts said investors were watching for the S&P 500 to cross 3,000 points, a key psychological level that could bolster risk appetite. The benchmark index was also nearing its 100-day and 200-day moving averages, technical indicators that have acted as resistance levels.

“We’re just capped in a trading range here, and we’ve probably reached that high level, and that’s why risk is off today,” said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Spartan Capital Securities in New York.

At 12:20 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI was down 56.38 points, or 0.23%, at 24,519.52, the S&P 500 .SPX was down 14.93 points, or 0.50%, at 2,956.68. The Nasdaq Composite .IXIC was down 50.20 points, or 0.54%, at 9,325.58.

Wall Street’s fear gauge touched 30 points during the session.

Best Buy Co Inc (BBY.N) fell 4.8% as the electronics retailer reported a 5.3% drop in quarterly same-store sales due to the virus, while L Brands Inc (LB.N) surged 16.7% despite posting worse-than-expected quarterly results.

Discount chain TJX .TJX jumped 6.2% to a more than two-month high after it flagged strong sales at its stores that had reopened after lockdowns.

Smaller rival Ross Stores Inc (ROST.O) jumped 5.6%.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 1.00-to-1 ratio on the NYSE. Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 1.22-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded five new 52-week highs and no new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 42 new highs and three new lows.

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