Dow Falls as New Virus Variant Continues Spread, Senate Race Heats Up

© Reuters © Reuters

By Yasin Ebrahim – The Dow slipped Monday as a close race in the Georgia Senate runoff elections raised concerns over the prospect of a Democrat-controlled Congress that would likely usher in higher taxes at a time when the new strain of Covid-19 continues to spread.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1.25%, or 382 points, though was had fallen 724 points intraday. It was the first negative start to the year for the Dow since 2016. The S&P 500 was down 1.48%, while the Nasdaq Composite slipped 1.47%.

Republican Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler are facing stiff competition in the Georgian runoff elections from Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock. The race has become too close to call, prompting investors to weigh the prospect of higher taxes and increased government spending under a Democrat-controlled Congress.

"Investors are beginning to weigh the prospect of higher taxes and massive government spending against the notion of further fiscal relief aid as the pandemic – and subsequent policy measures – continues to wreak havoc on the economy," Stifel said in a note.

The political uncertainty comes as the new coronavirus variant, initially identified in the UK, continues to spread in the U.S., raising concerns that further lockdown measures will be needed to curb the contagion. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo confirmed the state’s first case of new Covid strain.

Patients hospitalized with Covid-19 in the U.S. hit a record high on Sunday, at 125,544, with experts warning the pandemic is likely to get worse.

“It could and likely will get worse in the next couple of weeks, or at least maintain this very terribly high level of infections and deaths that we’re seeing,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, told ABC on Sunday.

Further progress on vaccine rollouts kept hopes alive the economy could reopen sooner rather than later, as AstraZeneca's (NASDAQ:AZN) Covid-19 vaccine was distributed across the UK. England, however, is set for a third national lockdown as infections rose by 50,000 for the seventh day in a row.

Real estate and industrials sectors were among the biggest decliners, with the latter paced by declines in airline stocks on worries further coronavirus restrictions will hurt travel demand.

United Airlines Holdings (NASDAQ:UAL), Delta Air Lines Inc (NYSE:DAL) (DAL) and American Airlines (NASDAQ:AAL) closed lower, with the latter down 4%. Aircraft maker Boeing (NYSE:BA), a major Dow component, also contributed to the selloff after closing 5% lower following a downgrade from Bernstein.

Energy stocks were outperforming the overall market malaise, shrugging off falling oil prices even as reports suggested key oil-producing countries remain dividend on production caps.

OPEC+ is meeting on Monday to decide whether to lift output by 500,000 barrels per day, but Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Algeria are reportedly pushing to leave production unchanged.

Technology was not far behind, down more than 2% as investors eased bets on the high-flying Fab 5 stocks. (NASDAQ:AMZN), Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), Google-parent Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOGL) and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) ended the day in the red.

In other news, Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) gained more than 3% after delivering a record 499,550 vehicles in 2020, though that fell just short of chief executive Elon Musk's 500,000 estimate. The company also deliveries of its Model Y vehicle from its Shanghai gigafactory would begin shortly.

Original Article

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