By Will Horner
U.S. stocks slipped Tuesday, on track to extend their losses as investors assess blue-chip companies’ profits and sales prospects.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 0.9%, while the S&P 500 fell 0.8% and the Nasdaq Composite lost 1.1%. All three indexes also declined Monday, breaking a recent winning streak.
Investors are looking to companies’ first-quarter earnings and their outlooks for the rest of the year to gauge whether valuations on stocks are justified. Strong U.S. economic data has bolstered expectations and fueled the recent rally that has left major indexes hovering close to records. Rising Covid-19 infection levels in some countries and signs that the vaccine rollout may be faltering are now tempering that optimism.
“All these company share prices are near or close to record highs and we are seeing a lot of people taking money off the table,” said Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets. “There is a general lack of impetus.”
Investors entered earnings season with high expectations, particularly for economically sensitive stocks such as banks and retail that stand to win the most from the economy reopening. Netflix is expected to post its results after markets close Tuesday.
“The only risk is that expectations across the board are so high, they are going to be very difficult to meet,” said Seema Shah, chief strategist at Principal Global Investors. “We are getting into territory — both with earnings and economic data — where it will be very difficult to have positive surprises.”
Airline stocks were among Tuesday’s losers. United Airlines fell more than 9% after reporting weaker-than-expected results for the first quarter. Other airlines followed, with American Airlines and Delta Air Lines dropping 6.6% and 4.5%, respectively. Alaska Air Group fell 4.2%.
“Air travel is really a story of two segments,” said Ed Keon, chief investment strategist at QMA. “Leisure travel is back, but business travel is still way down, and business travelers are how airlines make their money, especially on international business travel, and that segment is still moribund. So the airlines have bounced quite a bit off their lows as a result of leisure travel, but to really get back to profitability, they need the business traveler to come back, and that is still happening very slowly.”
Shares of manufacturing and tech companies, however, may benefit in the continued months, Mr. Keon said, as the global shortage of computer chips, lumber and other supplies continues.
“These may not last forever, but at least for the moment there are spot shortages both of goods and ways of getting those goods to customers,” he said. “That is likely to continue to put some upward pressure on some of those products and services.”
Kansas City Southern jumped nearly 16% after Canadian National Railway said it plans to offer $30 billion for the railway operator, likely sparking a bidding war. These gains put the company on pace for its largest percent increase since March 24, 2020, when it rose 22%.
In the bond market, the 10-year U.S. Treasury yield was largely unchanged from 1.599% on Monday. Yields fall as prices rise.
Dogecoin, the cryptocurrency created as a joke, pared gains after climbing more than 8,000% this year. By Tuesday, it fell to 36 cents, according to CoinDesk, but some users of online forums have said they plan to push the cryptocurrency to $1 by closing time, in what some have called “Doge Day.”
Overseas, the pan-continental Stoxx Europe 600 fell 1.9%. The U.K.’s FTSE 100 retreated 2% as tobacco companies dropped.
In Asia, major stock indexes were mixed. Japan’s Nikkei 225 fell 2%, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng ticked up 0.1%. The Shanghai Composite Index edged down 0.1%.
Julia Carpenter contributed to this article.
Write to Will Horner at William.Horner@wsj.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
April 20, 2021 12:24 ET (16:24 GMT)
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