Wall St falls as Delta worries outweigh earnings, M&A cheer

(Reuters) – Wall Street’s main indexes fell on Tuesday, as concerns around a surge in the Delta variant of the coronavirus took the shine off an upbeat corporate earnings season and a pickup in global deals activity.

FILE PHOTO: A street sign for Wall Street is seen outside the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, New York, U.S., July 19, 2021. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

Only four of the 11 S&P indexes were higher in early trading and gains were led by real estate and utilities, generally considered safe bets at a time of heightened economic uncertainty.

A clutch of U.S. companies including industrial materials maker Dupont and Discovery Inc reported better-than-expected quarterly results, but their shares fell as investors booked profits amid lofty stock valuations.

“Stocks have taken into account a substantial increase in earnings, which is mostly due to an easy comparison from last year,” said Rick Meckler, a partner at Cherry Lane Investments in New Vernon, New Jersey.

“What’s troubling investors is the return of COVID-19 infections potentially pulling down the economy and the possibility of a higher tax rates.”

Rising cases of the Delta variant and signs that the domestic economic rebound had begun to slow have knocked the three main U.S. stock indexes off record highs, while a deepening regulatory scrutiny in China has sent jitters through the global technology sector.

China’s Tencent Holdings Ltd slumped as much as 10% in Asia after a Chinese state media outlet branded online games as “spiritual opium”.

Shares of U.S.-listed gaming companies including Activision Blizzard Inc, Electronic Arts Inc , Zinga Inc and Take-Two Interactive Software Inc fell between 2.8% and 9%.

At 10:07 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 0.19%, the S&P 500 was down 0.18% and the Nasdaq Composite was down 0.42%.

Bond yields slipped again after weaker-than-expected manufacturing data in the previous session sent them to their lowest since July 20. Shares of major U.S. banks, which generally track bond yields, fell about 1%. [US/]

Energy stocks slid 0.2% following a slump in oil prices. [O/R]

Meanwhile, data on Tuesday showed factory orders rose 1.5% in June after a 2.3% increase in the previous month. Economists polled by Reuters had expected a rise of 1% in June.

Focus later in the week will be on data on the U.S. services sector and the monthly jobs report for July.

In M&A-driven moves, Translate Bio surged 29.1% after France’s Sanofi agreed to buy the U.S. biotech company in a $3.2 billion deal.

Under Armour Inc and Ralph Lauren Corp jumped 4.0% and 6.9%, respectively, after raising their annual revenue forecast.

Overall, earnings at S&P 500 firms are now estimated to have climbed about 90% in the second quarter versus forecasts of 65.4% at the start of July, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers 1.84-to-1 on the NYSE and 2.56-to-1 on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 35 new 52-week highs and three new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 48 new highs and 52 new lows.

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