The S&P 500 has slipped in choppy trading as the risks of reopening the economy too soon overshadowed hopes of a jump-start to battered global markets, following an easing of virus-led business shutdowns.
Among the 11 major sectors, financial stocks, which generally lag when the economic outlook darkens, weighed the most on the S&P 500.
Also dragging the sector lower was a 5.5 per cent fall in BlackRock, after its top shareholder PNC Financial Services Group planned to sell its entire 22 per cent stake in the world’s largest asset manager.
Optimism about an economic recovery and massive stimulus measures have helped the benchmark index climb about 34 per cent from the lows of a pandemic-driven sell-off in March.
Portfolio manager at GLOBALT in Atlanta, Keith Buchanan, said hopes of an imminent recovery may be too optimistic.
“There’s an assumption that the worst is behind us, (but) it feels a bit premature to be frank,” he said.
“We do see accelerating infection in some places, but how that story is written into the far is yet to be seen.”
Wuhan reported its first cluster of coronavirus infections since a lockdown on the city, stoking concerns of a wider resurgence.
Leading US infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci on Tuesday warned Congress that while the federal government is working to help manufacture a vaccine against the new coronavirus, its development “might take some time” to come to market.
According to a report before the hearing, Fauci warned that moving too quickly to ease restrictions on business and social life will put lives at risk from the pandemic and hamper the economic recovery.
Wall Street’s fear gauge slipped for the fourth day running, hitting a ten-week low, even as data showed US consumer prices in April dropped by the most since the Great Recession.
The focus for this week is the retail report for April due on Friday.
At 10.12am local time on Tuesday the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 42.25 points, or 0.17 per cent, at 24,264.24, the S&P 500 was down 6.09 points, or 0.21 per cent, at 2,924.23. The Nasdaq Composite was down 28.27 points, or 0.31 per cent, at 9,164.07.
Among other stocks, Simon Property Group jumped 3.6 per cent as the biggest US mall operator said it would have about half of its more than 200 retail properties in the country open within the next week.
Smaller rival Macerich climbed 4.9 per cent as it expected to open a vast majority of its properties by mid-June.
Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 1.19-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and a 1.35-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.
The S&P index recorded seven new 52-week highs and one new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 55 new highs and 12 new lows.