Dow closes down 167 points as vaccine rally fades

Data signalling a slowdown in consumer spending weighed on Wall Street’s main indexes on Tuesday, but Tesla’s shares bucked the trend to soar on news it will be joining the S&P 500 in December.

Wall Street's main indexes closed down on Tuesday after the Dow and S&P closed on record highs on Monday [File: Carlo Allegri/Reuters]
Wall Street's main indexes closed down on Tuesday after the Dow and S&P closed on record highs on Monday [File: Carlo Allegri/Reuters]

Wall Street’s main stock indexes finished Tuesday’s session in the red, as spiralling COVID-19 infections and disappointing economic news brought Monday’s vaccine-fuelled rally to a halt.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed out the session down more than 167 points or 0.56 percent at 29,783.35.

The broader S&P 500 index – a proxy for the health of retirement and college savings accounts –  closed down 0.48 percent while the Nasdaq Composite Index finished the session down 0.21 percent

The Dow and S&P rallied to record closes on Monday after Moderna reported that preliminary trial data showed its COVID-19 vaccine to be 94.5 percent effective.

But a weaker-than-expected reading on US retail sales on Tuesday brought down the mood on Wall Street.

Retail sales in the US rose a scant 0.3 percent last month, the US Department of Commerce said, while the reading for September was revised downward.

The disappointing numbers signal that the primary engine of the US economy – consumer spending, which accounts for two-thirds of growth – is suffering as COVID-19 restrictions and financial setbacks discourage people from spending on goods and services. That ripples throughout the economy as businesses shut their doors early or entirely, or cut costs and staff to try and stay afloat.

The lapsing of coronavirus relief aid, including the $600 federal weekly top-up to state unemployment benefits that expired at the end of July, is also cutting into retail sales activity.

Meanwhile, Washington remains gridlocked over another coronavirus stimulus package, leaving millions of people struggling to keep roofs over their heads and food on the table.

People line up to receive free holiday boxes of food from the Food Bank For New York City before the Thanksgiving holiday in the Harlem neighbourhood of New York [File: Brendan McDermid/Reuters]

Long lines at food banks have drawn comparisons to the Great Depression of the 1920s and 1930s, and economists are warning that the economic scarring from the pandemic fallout will likely shape generations to come.

“At some point, the virus will be quashed – either through herd immunity or, perhaps more likely, a vaccine. But the economic consequences will persist for years, even decades,” Neil Shearing, group chief economist at Capital Economics, wrote in a Wednesday report.

Among stocks making moves on Tuesday:

Shares of Tesla Inc gained 8.21 percent, after S&P Dow Jones Indices confirmed after the close of trading on Monday that they would add Elon Musk’s electric vehicle maker to the S&P 500 main index starting from December 21.

Inclusion in the S&P provides a huge boost to component companies because fund managers that track the index snap up those shares.

Walmart Inc closed down 2 percent after the mega-retailer posted better-than-expected earnings. Sales were buoyed by consumers using same-day delivery options and store pick-up services to stock up on groceries and essentials.

Amazon Inc shares gained 0.14 percent after the online retail behemoth announced it has launched a digital pharmacy that will allow customers to buy prescription medication online.

Source: Al Jazeera

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