Oil stocks pull S&P 500, Dow lower as virus fears weigh

A street sign for Wall Street is seen outside the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City
A street sign for Wall Street is seen outside the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, New York, U.S., July 19, 2021. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
  • Energy stocks hit by rising COVID-19 cases
  • Sanderson Farms gains after $4.53 bln buyout offer
  • Indexes: Dow down 0.23%, S&P falls 0.12%, Nasdaq up 0.12%

Aug 9 (Reuters) - The S&P and the Dow indexes retreated from record highs on Monday as energy and other sectors sensitive to economic growth tumbled on concerns over rising COVID-19 cases.

Energy shares (.SPNY), down 1.2%, bore the brunt of selling tracking a slump in crude as an increase in coronavirus cases, particularly in China, raised fears of new curbs that could hurt oil demand.

Eight of the 11 major S&P sectors fell, while shares such as consumer staples (.SPLRCS) and financial (.SPSY) led gains.

Miners also came under pressure from steep declines in copper and gold prices on concerns over Chinese demand. The materials sector (.SPLRCM) fell 0.3%, while Freeport-Mcmoran Inc (FCX.N), the world's largest publicly traded copper producer, slipped 1%.

In the United States COVID-19 infections rose by at least 22,783 on Sunday to 35.94 million total cases, according to a Reuters tally.

"The concern is that we could be facing higher (interest) rates, with a potential slowdown caused by COVID-19, which is sort of a worst case scenario," said Robert Pavlik, senior portfolio manager at Dakota Wealth in Fairfield, Connecticut.

Investors awaited fresh catalysts to push the market higher, after strong jobs data saw the S&P 500 (.SPX) and the Dow Jones (.DJI) end last week at record highs.

A meeting of Federal Reserve leaders in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, later this month, is also expected to shed more light on the central bank's potential plan to trim its stimulus program, in the wake of rising inflation and strength in the job market.

Focus will also be on a $1 trillion bipartisan U.S. infrastructure bill, with a vote possible by Tuesday, after details of the bill gained support in the Senate over the weekend. read more

At 11:34 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (.DJI) was down 79.55 points, or 0.23%, at 35,128.96, the S&P 500 (.SPX) was down 5.31 points, or 0.12%, at 4,431.21, and the Nasdaq Composite (.IXIC) was up 17.41 points, or 0.12%, at 14,853.17.

A stellar earnings season has seen U.S. stocks surge to record highs over the past two weeks, as several consensus-beating results from major firms reinforced faith in a post-COVID economic recovery this year.

As of Friday, analysts expected second-quarter profit growth of 93.1% for S&P 500 companies, according to IBES data from Refinitiv. Of the 443 companies in the index that have reported earnings so far, 87.4% beat analyst expectations, the highest on record.

Sanderson Farms Inc (SAFM.O) gained 7.2% after it agreed to be bought for $4.53 billion by commodities trader Cargill Inc and investment firm Continental Grain Co at a time when meat prices have been soaring due to strong demand. read more

Tyson Foods Inc (TSN.N) gained 7.8% after the meat processing company raised its forecast for fiscal 2021 revenue. read more

Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 1.64-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and a 1.02-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 24 new 52-week highs and 1 new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 62 new highs and 46 new lows.

Reporting by Ambar Warrick in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta

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