ASX set to drop sharply as lockdown fears, Ginsburg death spook Wall Street

Wall Street’s main indexes slid to seven-week lows on Monday (US time), with the S&P 500 and Dow each tumbling more than 2 per cent at one stage in the session, as concerns about fresh coronavirus-driven lockdowns in Europe raised fears the US economy faces a longer road to recovery than expected.

The death of US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg increased the likelihood another stimulus package will not be approved in Congress before the November 3 presidential election and sparked large declines in the healthcare sector.

Wall Street strated the week with sharp falls.
Wall Street strated the week with sharp falls.Credit:AP

The Dow shed as much as 900 points and the CBOE Market Volatility index, Wall Street’s fear gauge, shot up to its highest level in nearly two weeks.

In late trade, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 2.4 per cent, the S&P 500 has lost 1.9 per cent and the Nasdaq Composite has shed 0.9 per cent. Futures for the ASX are pointing to a drop of 72 points, or 1.2 per cent, at the open.


Ginsburg’s death added to growing uncertainty about the election outcome and health of the economy.

“It just kind of crowds out the agenda, the idea that we are going to get a fiscal stimulus package before the election,” said Ed Campbell, portfolio manager and managing director at QMA in Newark, New Jersey.

“There is also just general election-related jitters … and possibly that we have a contested or delayed outcome.”

Congress has for weeks remained deadlocked over the size and shape of a fifth coronavirus-response bill, on top of the roughly $US3 trillion ($4.2 trillion) already enacted into law.

Healthcare providers came under pressure on uncertainty over the fate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), better known as Obamacare, with shares of Universal Health Services falling more than 11 per cent.

Ginsburg’s death could lead to a tie vote when the Supreme Court hears a challenge to the constitutionality of ACA in November, Mizuho, Stephens and other financial services firms said.

Wall Street has tumbled in the past three weeks as investors dumped heavyweight technology-related stocks following a stunning rally that lifted the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq to new highs after plunging in March as economies entered recession.

Another round of business restrictions will threaten a nascent recovery in the wider economy and add further pressure on equity markets, analysts said. The first round of lockdowns in March had led the S&P 500 to suffer its worst monthly decline since the global financial crisis.

In contrast to last week’s trend, declines were led by value-oriented sectors such as industrials, energy and financials as opposed to technology stocks . Financials were poised to notch their worst day since June 26.

Airline, hotel and cruise companies tracked declines in their European peers as the UK signalled the possibility of a second national lockdown. Europe’s travel and leisure index marked its worst two-day drop since April.

The largest gainer among the Nasdaq 100 was Zoom Video Communications, which rose 6.2 per cent on the prospect that fresh lockdowns would spur greater use of the product.

JPMorgan Chase & Co and Bank of New York Mellon Corp fell 3.82 per cent and 4.71 per cent, respectively, on reports that several global banks moved large sums of allegedly illicit funds over nearly two decades despite red flags about the origins of the money.

The S&P banking subindex lost 4.3 per cent.

Nikola plunged 20.2 per cent after its founder, Trevor Milton, stepped down as executive chairman following a public squabble with a short-seller over allegations of nepotism and fraud.

General Motors, which recently said it would take an 11 per cent stake in the electric truck maker, slipped 5.5 per cent. Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 8.67-to-1 ratio; on the Nasdaq, a 5.60-to-1 ratio favoured decliners.


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