Friday, November 26, 2021

Dow-Jones Industrial Average Suffers Worst Trading Day of 2021

My retirement funds are getting bashed.

At WSJ, "Stocks, Oil Drop Sharply on Concerns Over New Covid-19 Variant":

Stocks, oil prices and government-bond yields slumped after South Africa raised the alarm over a fast-spreading strain of the coronavirus, triggering concern that travel restrictions and other curbs will spoil the global economy’s recovery.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 905.04 points, or 2.5%, to 34899.34. It was the Dow’s biggest one-day percentage drop since October 2020.

The S&P 500 lost 106.84 points, or 2.3%, to 4594.62 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 353.57 points, or 2.2%, to 15491.66. It was the worst Black Friday session on record for all three indexes. Markets closed early because of the holiday.

U.S. crude oil tumbled 13% to $68.15. Traders fretted that lockdowns could reduce demand for transportation fuels. Bitcoin, following the path of other risk assets, skidded lower.

“It’s not a great day to wake up on Black Friday and see news about a concerning variant,” said Jessica Bemer, a portfolio manager at Easterly Investment Partners.

Investors reached for safe havens. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note tumbled to 1.484% from 1.644% before the Thanksgiving break, its biggest drop since March 2020. Gold, another perceived store of value when riskier assets retreat, rose 0.1% to $1,785.30 a troy ounce.

The pullback created whiplash for markets that had, to a great extent, parked worries about coronavirus.

Scientists say the new coronavirus variant, dubbed B.1.1.529, has a high number of mutations that may make it more transmissible and allow it to evade some of the immune responses triggered by previous infection or vaccination. Dozens of countries have already imposed travel restrictions to and from southern Africa.

Investors feared the strain could set back months of efforts to revive the world economy and save lives.

“For now, Covid is back on the table,” said Takeo Kamai, head of execution services at CLSA in Tokyo.

Investors seemed to be following the playbook they pulled out early in the pandemic: sell travel stocks, buy work-from-home stocks. “This is a market that is well practiced in terms of reacting to Covid,” Ms. Bemer said.

Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and American Airlines Group all dropped 8% or more, after the U.K., Israel and Singapore restricted travel from southern Africa. The European Union said it would propose stopping air travel from the region. Cruise stocks including Royal Caribbean Group were hammered, while Exxon Mobil fell 3.5%, or $2.23, to $61.25. Chevron fell 2.3%, or $2.68, to $114.51.

Moderna rose 21%, or $56.24, to $329.63. Pfizer gained 6.1%, or $3.11. to $54. Netflix and DoorDash, which previously benefited from stay-at-home orders, rose 1.1% and 1.6%, respectively.

The World Health Organization on Friday said the new strain was a “variant of concern.” Rising caseloads of other variants have already led some European countries to tighten rules for transportation, shopping and workplaces.

Many U.S. investors had taken the day off, extending their Thanksgiving holiday. Ms. Bemer said she’d planned on working Friday, though she was staying with relatives for the holiday. “It’s a busier day than we expected,” she said.

The combined trading volume on the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq was about 6.9 billion shares. The average Black Friday volume since 2007 has been 2.9 billion shares, according to FactSet.

Oil prices experienced some of the biggest declines. Traders said money managers were rushing to unwind wagers that a mismatch between tight supplies and rising demand would push crude prices toward $100 a barrel. The swoon might encourage the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and a group of Russia-led allies to pause steps to pump more oil when they meet next week.

“If the announcement is, the vaccine works on this, back up we go,” said Adam Webb, chief investment officer of Blue Creek Capital Management. “If the vaccines don’t work against it, then good night Vienna.”

Money managers said that even if the variant proves more resistant to vaccines than earlier strains, there were reasons to think the economic damage could be contained. MRNA vaccines, such as those manufactured by Pfizer and Moderna, can be quickly updated, and businesses have adapted to containment measures, ensuring that the blow from each lockdown has lessened.

However, elevated inflation could prevent central banks and governments from spraying economies with stimulus in the event of renewed widespread lockdowns...