Wall Street’s main indexes have slipped amid expectations of a painful US quarterly earnings season due to the coronavirus pandemic.

JPMorgan Chase & Co and Wells Fargo & Co will kick off the reporting season on Tuesday, with analysts expecting an uptick in trading revenue to be offset by declines in other businesses and a bleak outlook for the rest of 2020.

The S&P banking subsector shed 2.5 per cent, while the broader financial sector dragged on the benchmark S&P 500 with a 2.4 per cent fall.

Overall, earnings for S&P 500 firms are expected to tumble 9.0 per cent in the first quarter, compared with a January 1 forecast of a 6.3 per cent rise, before plummeting 20.7 per cent in the second quarter as sweeping lockdowns halt business activity and spark furloughs.

“We’re bracing for one of the worst earnings seasons in recent history,” said Jesse Cohen, senior analyst at financial markets platform Investing.com.

The S&P 500 has recovered about 26 per cent since hitting a three-year low in March, powered by aggressive US monetary and fiscal stimulus and early signs of a potential peaking in US coronavirus cases, but remains about 18 per cent below its mid-February record high amid fears of a deep global recession.

“The raft of stimulus from the Federal Reserve has distorted stock prices, which have become disconnected from fundamentals. Combined with the bleak second-quarter data expected to come this month, there is definitely room for more downside,” Cohen said.

US jobless claims topped a staggering 16 million in the three weeks to April 4 and economists expect job losses of up to 20 million this month as entire sectors shut down to try and contain the pandemic.

The outbreak could reach its US peak this week, a top health official said on Monday, as the White House considers when and how to lift stay-at-home restrictions.

“It’s becoming clear that reaching the virus crescendo does not automatically translate into a timeline for when an economy will re-open,” said Marios Hadjikyriacos, investment analyst at online broker XM in Cyprus.

In early trading, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 295.12 points, or 1.24 per cent, at 23,424.25, the S&P 500 was down 31.30 points, or 1.12 per cent, at 2,758.52 and the Nasdaq Composite was down 35.15 points, or 0.43 per cent, at 8,118.42.

Energy stocks gained 1.4 per cent following a record oil output cut..

Dish Network Corp shed 3.5 per cent as it announced lay-offs and said it was re-evaluating its business to cope better with the fallout from the coronavirus outbreak.

Ford Motor Co fell 3.7 per cent after the car maker projected quarterly adjusted loss before interest and taxes to be about $US600 million ($A941 million), compared with a profit of $US2.4 billion a year earlier.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers more than 3-to-1 on the NYSE and 2-to-1 on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded two new 52-week highs and no new low, while the Nasdaq recorded seven new highs and four new lows.

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