Wall Street falls as U.S. crude crash adds to pandemic woes

(Reuters) – Wall Street retreated for a second straight day on Tuesday as a collapse in U.S. crude prices and glum annual forecasts by companies foreshadowed the biggest economic slump since the Great Depression.

All the major S&P 500 sector indexes fell 2%, with the energy index .SPNY sliding for the seventh time in eight sessions a day after the WTI contract CLc1 crashed below zero as oil traders ran out of storage for May deliveries.

With the collapse spilling into June futures contracts, equity investors became wary of the extent of the economic damage from sweeping lockdown measures that have halted business activity and sparked millions of layoffs.

With many sectors facing the risk of a collapse, investors are looking to first-quarter earnings reports for the impact of the health crisis on Corporate America after big U.S. banks set the stage with dismal outlooks for 2020.

“What we’re hearing about is a quarter that’s in the rear-view mirror, but also do not know what the future holds in the second quarter, which is probably going to be worse,” said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at National Securities in New York.

The benchmark S&P 500 index .SPX has climbed over 25% from a March low, powered by trillions of dollars in stimulus, but still remained nearly 17% below its record high due to state-wide shutdowns to try to contain the virus.

U.S. jobless claims hit 22 million in the past month as companies launched dramatic cost-saving measures to ride out the slump, and readings of U.S. business activity surveys, due Thursday, are likely to plummet to recession-era lows.

The financials index .SPSY fell 2.6% as the flight from risk sent investors scurrying to the perceived safety of bonds and the dollar.

Coca-Cola Co (KO.N) provided the latest evidence of the damage wrought by the pandemic, saying its current-quarter results would take a severe hit from low demand for sodas.

Travelers Companies (TRV.N), the first of the big U.S. insurers to report results, reported a 25% fall in quarterly profit, hurt by higher catastrophe losses, but its shares rose 1.9%.

International Business Machines Corp (IBM.N) declined 3.7% after the company withdrew its 2020 annual forecast late on Monday.

Chip industry bellwether Texas Instruments (TXN.O) fell 4% and streaming service provider Netflix Inc (NFLX.O) dropped 1.4% ahead of their quarterly reports after market close.

At 01:01 p.m. ET the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI was down 548.18 points, or 2.32%, at 23,102.26, the S&P 500 .SPX was down 79.97 points, or 2.83%, at 2,743.19. The Nasdaq Composite .IXIC was down 289.77 points, or 3.38%, at 8,270.96.

Regional U.S. bank Zions Bancorp (ZION.O), which fell about 2% after reporting first-quarter results late on Monday, said it had received approvals for $4.4 billion loan as part of the paycheck protection program.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 6.20-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and for a 4.38-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded one new 52-week high and no new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 19 new highs and 28 new lows.

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