Wall Street’s main indexes finished lower on Friday, with the biggest drag coming from big U.S. banks after their earnings reports, while the energy sector was weighed down by a regulatory probe into Exxon Mobil Corp. The S&P/TSX Composite Index also closed lower, with the energy sector inflicting the most damage, as crude oil prices pulled back.
The Canadian benchmark fell 49.06 points, or 0.27%, at 17,909.03, as energy shares fell 3.91%. The materials sector fell just over 2%, but consumer staples rose 2.15%.
Atlantic Power Corp. shares surged 39.33% after the company announced it would be acquired by a private equity firm at a 48% premium to its recent stock price. BlackBerry, which surged more than 20% on Thursday, gained a further 8.9% after Facebook agreed to settle a lawsuit over patent infringement.
The S&P 500 banks index lost ground as shares of Wells Fargo & Co, JPMorgan Chase & Co and Citigroup Inc tumbled even though they had posted better-than-expected fourth-quarter profits. The bank sector had rallied sharply in recent days.
Wells Fargo, down 7.8%, was among the biggest drags on the S&P 500, along with Exxon Mobil, down 4.8%.
“Financials and energy have been disappointing ... that’s bringing down the whole market,” said Chris Zaccarelli, chief investment officer at Independent Advisor Alliance in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“This year is the year for financials, energy, materials, industrials. So if there is a day when they’re not leading, it’s not good news for the market.”
Wall Street’s major indexes had recently hit record highs on hopes for a hefty fiscal stimulus package.
Incoming U.S. President Joe Biden late on Thursday unveiled a $1.9 trillion stimulus proposal, which included some $1 trillion in direct relief to households.
Meanwhile, data showed a further decline in U.S. retail sales in December in the latest sign the economy lost considerable speed at the end of 2020.
“The weaker-than-expected economic data, and especially in parts of the economy like retail sales, is a big driver,” said Liz Ann Sonders, chief investment strategist at Charles Schwab.
“We are seeing sentiment through last week in extreme speculative frothy euphoric optimistic territory,” she said. “Sometimes it doesn’t need a catalyst before it begins to fall on its own weight.”
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 177.26 points, or 0.57%, to 30,814.26, the S&P 500 lost 27.29 points, or 0.72%, to 3,768.25 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 114.14 points, or 0.87%, to 12,998.50.
For the week the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq fell around 1.5% while the Dow lost 0.91%.
Earnings for S&P 500 companies are expected to decline 9.5% in the final quarter of 2020 from a year ago, but are expected to rebound in 2021, with a gain of 16.4% projected for the first quarter, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.
Exxon shares fell after a report said that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission launched an investigation of the oil major, following a whistleblower’s complaint that it overvalued a key asset in the prolific Permian shale oil basin.
Oil prices fell more than 2% on Friday, with both contracts posting a loss on the week as concerns about Chinese cities in lockdown due to coronavirus outbreaks tempered a rally driven by strong import data from the world’s biggest crude importer.
Brent fell $1.32, or 2.3%, to settle at $55.10 a barrel. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude settled down $1.21, or 2.3%, at $52.36 a barrel.
Both benchmarks, which hit their highest in nearly a year earlier in the week, posted their first weekly declines in three weeks, with Brent down 1.6% on the week and U.S. crude down about 0.4%.
While producers are facing unparalleled challenges balancing supply and demand equations with calculus involving vaccine rollouts versus lockdowns, financial contracts have been boosted by strong equities and a weaker dollar, which makes oil cheaper, along with strong Chinese demand.
These positives were called into question on Friday as the dollar rose and China ramped up lockdown measures.
A nearly $2 trillion COVID-19 relief package in the United States unveiled by President-elect Joe Biden may increase oil demand from the world’s biggest crude consumer. Still, some analysts said the move may not be enough to stoke demand.
“In terms of being able to talk about demand, Asia was the only bright spot,” said John Kilduff, partner at Again Capital Management in New York. “This renewed lockdown is striking at the heart of the demand picture in Asia. It’s trouble.”
Crude imports into China were up 7.3% in 2020, with record arrivals in two out of four quarters as refineries increased runs and low prices prompted stockpiling, customs data showed on Thursday.
But China reported the highest number of daily COVID-19 cases in more than 10 months on Friday, capping a week that has resulted in more than 28 million people under lockdown as it suffered its first coronavirus death on the mainland since May.
“The COVID-19 pandemic’s spread is taking centre stage again and traders are getting increasingly worried about the long duration of European lockdown and about the new restrictions (in) China,” Bjornar Tonnage from Rystad Energy said.
“The market is structurally bullish, but it may be getting too ahead of forward-looking fundamentals.”
Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 2.20-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 2.24-to-1 ratio favored decliners.
The S&P 500 posted 10 new 52-week highs and no new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 169 new highs and seven new lows.
On U.S. exchanges, 14.12 billion shares changed hands on Friday compared with the 12.76 billion average for the last 20 sessions.
Reuters, with reports from Darcy Keith of The Globe and Mail
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