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Wall St closes lower amid shutdown worries

Stephen Culp
·2-min read

US stocks have retreated from a record closing high, ending lower as surging COVID-19 cases, the growing threat of a fresh round of economic lockdowns and weak retail sales data dampened the euphoria caused by potential vaccine breakthroughs.

The sell-off on Tuesday was a reversal of Monday's rally, in which the blue-chip Dow reached its first record closing high since before the pandemic.

The Nasdaq's loss was capped by surging Tesla shares.

Monday's rally was prompted by Moderna's announcement that its COVID-19 vaccine candidate appears to be 94.5 per cent effective in preventing infection.

But a recent surge in new coronavirus cases across the United States have led several governors to enact new restrictions to prevent the disease from spiralling out of control.

"It's going to be the vaccine versus the virus, flip-flopping back and forth until we get to the point where the vaccine is rolled out," said Joseph Sroka, chief investment officer at NovaPoint in Atlanta.

"It's like standing on the edge of a valley - I can look down and see the rising case loads or I can look across to the vaccine."

The retail sales report released by the Commerce Department showed spending decelerating as the holiday shopping season approaches amid a lack of forthcoming fiscal relief from Washington.

Unofficially, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 166.69 points, or 0.56 per cent, to 29,783.75, the S&P 500 lost 17.32 points, or 0.48 per cent, to 3,609.59 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 24.79 points, or 0.21 per cent, to 11,899.34.

Third-quarter earnings season is in its final stretch, with 465 of the companies in the S&P 500 having reported. Of those, 84.5 per cent have beaten consensus estimates, according to Refinitiv data.

This week brings quarterly results from series of high-profile retailers.

Walmart Inc beat profit expectations and posted a bigger-than-expected 6.4 per cent annual growth in same-store sales.

Home improvement retailer Home Depot Inc also beat quarterly profit and sales estimates as consumers used stay-at-home restrictions to focus on DIY home projects.

But Kohl's Corp rose sharply after the department store chain posted a surprise quarterly profit and forecast strong margins for the upcoming holiday season.

Target Corp and Lowe's Companies Inc results are expected before the bell on Wednesday.

Shares of Tesla jumped after S&P Dow Jones Indices announced it would add the electric automaker to the S&P 500 on December 21.

Amazon.com launched an online pharmacy in the United States, sending shares of rival drug retailers such as Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc CVS Health Corp plunging.