Chevron Corp CVX:NYSE

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Stocks End Sharply Lower on Rising COVID-19 Cases, Pessimism Over New Fiscal Stimulus

4:39PM ET 9/21/2020 MT Newswires
Stocks ended sharply lower on Monday as investors were rattled by rising COVID-19 cases and the possibility of more financial stimulus coming quickly seemed unlikely in the wake of the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Last week's sharp losses continued as worries grew about new waves of coronavirus infections and lockdown measures that might be put in place or expanded to deal with the spread of the respiratory disease.

Cases are rising in western Europe and hospitalizations are increasing but are still below their peaks earlier this year, according to Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics. In the US, the seven-day moving average his risen for eight straight days, he added.

The White House and congressional Democrats have been in a stalemate for weeks over a new stimulus package to replace the first one that featured enhanced unemployment benefits that expired at the end of July.

"Now, with a vacancy in the Supreme Court following the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the political divide is likely to grow," said Lindsey Piegza, chief economist at Stifel Nicolaus.

Ginsburg's death was seen by some market participants as a distraction to a new package from lawmakers as they position for a nomination fight that may come during the election season.

All but one of the 11 sectors of the Standard & Poor's 500 lost ground, with eight dropping more than 1.1%. Just four companies in the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained ground.

Materials led the market lower, falling 3.4%, pulled lower by Dow's (DOW) 4.9% slide. Freeport McMoRan (FCX) lost 7.9%, and Nucor (NUE) dropped 6.9%.

Energy shares fell about 3.3% as crude futures sank. West Texas Intermediate dropped 3.8% to $39.54 a barrel while international benchmark Brent lost about 3.4% to $41.70 a barrel.

Chevron (CVX) slid 2.4%, and Halliburton (HAL) fell 8.5%. Schlumberger (SLB) lost 7.8%.

Industrials shed almost 3.4% as 3M (MMM) fell 4.8%, Caterpillar (CAT) lost 4.6%, and Honeywell International (HON) slid 4.3%.

Tech shares were the only advancing sector, adding about 0.8% in the final hour of trading. Oracle (ORCL) rose 1.8% after it and Walmart (WMT) said over the weekend that they have received tentative US government approval to acquire 20% of TikTok Global. Walmart added 1.3%.

Microsoft (MSFT) firmed 1.1% after the software giant agreed to acquire ZeniMax Media, the parent company of game developer and publisher Bethesda Softworks, in a $7.5 billion deal.

Electric-truck company Nikola (NKLA) plunged more than 19% after saying its founder, Trevor Milton, is leaving immediately and being replaced by former General Motors (GM) executive Stephen Girsky. GM, which recently invested in Nikola, fell 4.8%.

Ilumina (ILMN) dropped 8.6% after the gene-therapy company agreed to buy cancer-test developer GRAIL, a company it founded in 2016 and later spun off, in a cash-and-stock deal valued at $8 billion.

The Dow dropped more than 1.8%, and the S&P 500 fell about 1.2%. The Nasdaq Composite slipped more than 0.1%.