Shares on Wall Street fell sharply from all-time peaks on the first trading day of the year on Monday, as risk appetite ebbed amid upcoming runoff elections in Georgia and the persistent surge in coronavirus cases.
The Dow, which touched a record high earlier in the session along with the S&P 500, was also dragged down by a more than 4 percent fall in Boeing ‘s shares after Bernstein cut its rating to “underperform,” saying issues with MAX 787 could significantly hurt the US planemaker’s free cash flow.
All three main indexes dropped to two-week lows from record highs, fueled by monetary stimulus and the start of vaccine rollouts.
The fate of President-elect Joe Biden’s agenda, meanwhile, including rewriting the tax code, boosting stimulus and infrastructure spending hinges firmly on Tuesday’s twin Senate races in the battleground state of Georgia that will determine control of the chamber.
Wall Street’s fear gauge touched a two-week high on Monday.
“Investors are feeling a bit nervous on the first trading day of the New Year and I think this is a confluence of factors,” said Lindsey Bell, chief investment strategist at Ally Invest, in Charlotte, NC.
She cited the rise in COVID-19 cases, the new virus variant that has spread around the world, and the Georgia Senate race.
Total US deaths from COVID-19 have reached more than 350,000.
“Investors are at a point where they want to take breather while they assess all the different things coming in the new year,” Bell said.
Almost all S&P sectors dropped with real estate, utilities and industrials posting the sharpest percentage declines. Consumer discretionary and materials hit all-time highs in early trading.
At 2 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 456.14 points, or 1.49 percent, to 30,150.34, the S&P 500 lost 56.55 points, or 1.51 percent, to 3,699.52 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 194.50 points, or 1.51 percent, to 12,693.78.
On the data front, US manufacturing activity picked up at its briskest pace in more than six years in December, a survey showed on Monday. It comes on the heels of upbeat factory activity surveys across Europe and Asia earlier in the day.
Some investors are cautious about the pace of economic growth as US jobless claims remain stubbornly high, while a new round of pandemic-related restrictions last month and a new variant of the coronavirus have cast a shadow on the outlook.
Tesla’s shares extended a meteoric rally to scale a record high after the electric-car maker reported better-than-expected vehicle deliveries in 2020.
Shares of FLIR Systems jumped about 19 percent after Teledyne Technologies agreed to buy the thermal imaging camera supplier for $8 billion in cash and stock. Teledyne’s shares dropped about 9 percent.