Stan Choe, Damian J. Troise And Alex Veiga, The Associated Press
Published Monday, September 21, 2020 3:03PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, September 21, 2020 11:23PM EDT
NEW YORK – Wall Street slumped Monday as markets tumbled worldwide on worries about the pandemic’s economic pain, though the S&P 500 had pared its losses by the end of the day.
The drops began in Asia as soon as trading opened for the week, and they accelerated in Europe on worries about the possibility of tougher restrictions there to stem rising coronavirus counts. In the U.S., stocks and Treasury yields weakened, while prices sank for oil and other commodities that a healthy economy would demand.
The S&P 500 fell 38.41 points, or 1.2%, to 3,281.06. It extends the index’s losing streak to four days, its longest since stocks were selling off in February on recession worries. But a last-hour recovery helped the index more than halve its loss of 2.7% from earlier in the day.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 509.72, or 1.8%, to 27,147.70 after coming back from an earlier 942 point slide. The Nasdaq composite slipped 14.48, or 0.1%, to 10,778.80 after recovering from a 2.5% drop.
Wall Street has been shaky this month, and the S&P 500 has dropped 8.4% since hitting a record Sept. 2 amid a long list of worries for investors. Chief among them is fear that stocks got too expensive when coronavirus counts are still worsening, Congress is unable to deliver more aid for the economy, U.S.-China tensions are rising and a contentious U.S. election is approaching.
Investors should expect the stock market to stay volatile, perhaps through the November elections, as they wait for these questions to shake out, said Jason Draho, head of asset allocation for the Americas at UBS Global Wealth Management.
Monday’s selling was exacerbated by worries about the possibility of more business restrictions in Europe, particularly as the United States heads into flu season, Draho said, and “some investors may be stepping aside.”
David Joy, chief market strategist at Ameriprise Financial, noted how Monday’s sharpest drops were concentrated in areas of the market most closely tied to the economy’s strength, such as energy companies and raw-material producers.
“It seems to be a broader expression of worry about the economy,” he said.
Bank stocks took sharp losses after a report alleged that several continue to profit from illicit dealings with criminal networks despite U.S. crackdowns on money laundering.
Shares of electric and hydrogen-powered truck startup Nikola plunged 19.3% after its founder resigned as executive chairman and left its board amid allegations of fraud. The company has called the allegations false and misleading.
General Motors, which recently signed a partnership deal where it would take an ownership stake in Nikola, fell 4.8%.
Investors are also worried about the diminishing prospects that Congress may soon deliver more aid to the economy. Many investors call such support crucial after extra weekly unemployment benefits and other stimulus expired. But partisan disagreements have held up any renewal of what’s known as the CARES Act.
“The stimulus money from the CARES Act, the impact of that, is running off and there doesn’t seem to be any urgency in Washington to get another package together,” said Joy of Ameriprise Financial..
Partisan rancour is only continuing to rise, deflating hopes further. The sudden vacancy on the Supreme Court following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is the latest flashpoint dividing the country.
Tensions between the world’s two largest economies are also weighing on markets. President Donald Trump has targeted Chinese tech companies in particular, and the Department of Commerce on Friday announced a list of prohibitions that could eventually cripple U.S. operations of Chinese-owned apps TikTok and WeChat. The government cited national security and data privacy concerns.
That raises the threat of Chinese retaliation against U.S. companies.
A U.S. judge over the weekend ordered a delay to the restrictions on WeChat, a communications app popular with Chinese-speaking Americans, on First Amendment grounds.
Trump also said on Saturday he gave his blessing to a proposed deal between TikTok, Oracle and Walmart to create a new company that would likely be based in Texas.
Layered on top of all those concerns for the market is the continuing coronavirus pandemic and its effect on the global economy.
On Sunday, the British government reported 4,422 new coronavirus infections, its biggest daily rise since early May. An official estimate shows new cases and hospital admissions are doubling every week.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson later this week is expected to announce a slate of short-term restrictions that will act as a “circuit breaker” to slow the spread of the disease. The number of cases has been rising quickly in many European countries and while authorities don’t seem ready to return to the tough restrictions on public life that they imposed in the spring, the new wave of the pandemic threatens the economic outlook.
The FTSE 100 in London dropped 3.4%. Other European markets were similarly weak. The German DAX lost 4.4%, and the French CAC 40 fell 3.7%.
In Asia, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng dropped 2.1%, South Korea’s Kospi fell 1% and stocks in Shanghai lost 0.6%.
The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 0.66% from 0.69% late Friday.
September’s losses for markets are reversing months of remarkable gains. Beginning in late March, when the Federal Reserve and Congress pledged massive amounts of support for the economy, the S&P 500 erased its nearly 34% in losses caused by the pandemic. Signs of budding economic improvements accelerated the gains, but growth has slowed recently.
AP Business Writer Joe McDonald contributed.
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Cenovus Energy shares plummet on news of its $3.8B deal to buy Husky Energy
The all-share deal by Cenovus Energy Inc. to buy Husky Energy Inc. for about $3.8 billion will likely spark more mega-mergers among Canadian oil and gas majors, according to a veteran oilsands analyst.
“This is likely just the start of big deals in Canadian energy land and thus it begs the question of who is next?” said analyst Phil Skolnick of Eight Capital in a report on Monday.
“As seen in the U.S. with the accelerated M&A activity, when there’s one meaningful transaction, there’s likely more to come.”
Several industry observers point to Calgary-based oilsands producer MEG Energy Inc. as the leading potential target, noting Husky’s failed $3.3-billion hostile takeover attempt of its smaller rival two years ago.
In his report, Skolnick presents scenarios where Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. (sometimes referred to by its stock ticker, CNQ) or Imperial Oil Ltd. buy MEG, while also outlining the numbers involved if Canadian Natural combined with Imperial or Suncor Energy Inc., and if Suncor were to merge with Imperial.
“Some (scenarios) have been asked about before and I was just bringing up some new ones _ like a CNQ and Suncor merger is not something I’ve heard out there, but nor was Cenovus-Husky,” he said in an interview.
“I’m not going to give zero chance to anything anymore.”
Analysts generally applauded the surprise Cenovus-Husky hookup announced Sunday for its operational advantages but criticized the plus-20-per-cent premium in the price for Husky.
“The deal does makes strategic sense,” said Manav Gupta of Credit Suisse in a note to investors.
“Like U.S. E&P (exploration and production companies), Canadian energy companies also need to come together, cut costs and become leaner to better adapt to lower energy demand in post pandemic world.”
He said Cenovus’s reputation as an efficient operator in its steam-driven oilsands projects will help Husky overcome its struggles with operational issues, including higher operating and administrative costs.
The companies have identified $1.2 billion in potential annual cost savings which will include workforce reductions.
But Gupta added the premium is “excessive” and joined other observers in predicting Cenovus shares would trade lower, as they did, falling by as much as 15 per cent to $4.15 in Monday trading in Toronto before closing down 8.4 per cent at $4.47.
Husky, meanwhile, gained as much as 14.2 per cent to $3.62 before closing up 12 per cent at $3.55 .
Husky shareholders are to receive 0.7845 of a Cenovus share plus 0.0651 of a Cenovus share purchase warrant in exchange for each Husky common share if the deal is concluded.
Cenovus shareholders would own about 61 per cent of the combined company and Husky shareholders about 39 per cent.
The transaction must be approved by at least two-thirds of Husky’s shareholders but Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-Shing controls 70 per cent of Husky’s shares and has agreed to vote them in favour of the deal.
The announcement Sunday came just as Calgary’s oilsands companies are about to start rolling out third-quarter financial results, with Suncor Energy Inc. set to report Wednesday and both Cenovus and Husky scheduled to report on Thursday.
© 2020 The Canadian Press
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