Wall Street rebound fizzles out as fears of virus impact persist

Traders work on the floor of the NYSE in New York
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., March 20, 2020. (REUTERS/Lucas Jackson)

By Uday Sampath Kumar and Medha Singh

Wall Street fell in choppy trading on Wednesday after a strong rebound in the previous session as optimism about an imminent $2 trillion coronavirus package waned, with investors still concerned about the lasting economic hit from the pandemic.

All three main indexes had snapped higher in early trading following reports that Washington had reached a deal on a $2 trillion stimulus package to aid businesses and millions of Americans hit by the economic fallout of the outbreak.

But fears about a looming global recession and the likelihood of corporate defaults amid a collapse in business activity quickly sent the benchmark S&P 500 <.SPX> and tech-heavy Nasdaq <.IXIC> lower.

The Dow <.DJI> flitted between small gains and losses.

“Markets are going to stay very volatile until one of three things happens: either the number of new infections in the U.S. peaks, there is some kind of a cure or vaccine developed or until the U.S. economy begins to reopen,” said Randy Watts, chief investment strategist at William O’Neil+Co in New York.

Wall Street had staged a furious rally on Tuesday, with the Dow posting its best day since 1933, in wild swings that were last seen at the height of the global financial crisis.

The Senate will vote on the bill later on Wednesday and the House of Representatives is expected to follow soon after.

The total figure at stake exceeds the amount the country spends on national defense, scientific research, highway construction and other discretionary programs combined.

“What’s remarkable in this particular crisis, compared to 2008 is the response by policymakers because the speed with which they’ve revamped existing programs and introduced new ones is completely unprecedented,” said Andrea Cicione, head of strategy at TS Lombard.

At 10:36 a.m. ET the Dow Jones Industrial Average <.DJI> was up 147.45 points, or 0.71%, at 20,852.36, the S&P 500 <.SPX> was down 10.96 points, or 0.45%, at 2,436.37 and the Nasdaq Composite <.IXIC> was down 70.90 points, or 0.96%, at 7,346.96.

While the S&P 500 recovered about $1.8 trillion in value in Tuesday’s session, it is still off about $8 trillion from its mid February peak.

Boeing Co <BA.N> led gains on the Dow, surging nearly 12%, and continuing this week’s rally as sources said it planned to restart 737 MAX production by May.

Nike <NKE.N> gained 11% after beating quarterly revenue estimates and reporting rebounding sales in China.

American Airlines <AAL.O>, Royal Caribbean Cruises <RCL.N> and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings <NCLH.N>, among the hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic, jumped between 13% and 23%.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners more than 1-to-1 on the NYSE and the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded no new 52-week high and four new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded three new highs and 31 new lows.