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US STOCKS-Wall St closes down on soaring virus cases, U.S. stimulus worries

Herbert Lash
·3 min read

* Travel-related stocks fall as COVID-19 cases soar

* Oracle down as rival SAP scraps medium-term margin goals (New throughout, updates prices, market activity and comments to market close)

By Herbert Lash

NEW YORK, Oct 26 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks tumbled on Monday in thin trade, with the S&P 500 posting its biggest daily decline in four weeks, as soaring coronavirus cases and uncertainty about a fiscal relief bill in Washington dimmed the outlook for the U.S. economic recovery.

The United States, Russia and France set daily records for coronavirus infections. The number of hospitalized Americans with COVID-19 jumped to a two-month high.

Travel-related stocks, vulnerable to COVID-19 related curbs, fell sharply. The S&P 1500 airlines index fell about 6% and cruise line operators Carnival Corp and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd fell more than that.

"Fears about COVID-19 resurgence and the continued failure to reach a fiscal policy package between Republicans and Democrats has investors unnerved," said Michael Arone, chief investment strategist at State Street Global Advisors in Boston.

"Those are the two biggest drivers of today's decline."

The energy index tracked a more than 3% fall in oil prices. The economically sensitive industrials and financials also posted steep declines among S&P sectors.

The big price moves came as trading volume was substantially less than the daily October average.

"From our clients' perspective, the uncertainty is causing them to stay on the sidelines. So you're seeing a lack of buyers, generally speaking," said King Lip, chief strategist at Baker Avenue Asset Management in San Francisco.

U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin about COVID-19 relief legislation.

Wall Street's fear gauge hit its highest in more than seven weeks as uncertainty grew over the Nov. 3 election. Some 60 million Americans have voted in a record-breaking early turnout as Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden entered their final week of campaigning.

It is also one of the busiest weeks of the third-quarter earnings season that will see results from mega-cap U.S. tech firms including Apple Inc, Amazon.com Inc, Google-parent Alphabet Inc and Facebook Inc.

The tech sector is among the only three sectors apart from healthcare and consumer staples expected to post an increase in profit from a year earlier.

Of the 139 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported earnings so far, 83.5% have beaten Wall Street expectations, according to Refinitiv data.

Unofficially, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 647.1 points, or 2.28%, to 27,688.47, the S&P 500 lost 64.15 points, or 1.85%, to 3,401.24 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 189.35 points, or 1.64%, to 11,358.94.

Software company Oracle Corp fell after German rival SAP abandoned medium-term profitability targets and warned of a longer-than-expected recovery time from the pandemic hit.

Hasbro Inc tumbled as quarterly adjusted revenue fell due to coronavirus-led delays in production of movies and TV shows.

Companies deemed stay-at-home winners including Amazon.com Inc, Zoom Video Communications Inc and video game companies Activision Blizzard Inc and Take-Two Interactive Software Inc bucked the downtrend and rose. (Additional reporting by Medha Singh and Shivani Kumaresan in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur and David Gregorio)