NEW YORK: Wall Street’s main indexes fell on Monday, as glum data from China sparked fears of slowing global growth, spurring a risk-off sentiment and a move into defensive stocks amid political turmoil in Afghanistan.
The data showed that retail sales, industrial production and urban investment in China all missed forecasts, pointing to the impact of the fast-spreading Delta variant of the coronavirus and knocking down prices of commodities and the S&P 500 and the Dow from record highs.
Meanwhile, thousands of civilians desperate to flee Afghanistan thronged Kabul airport on Monday after the Taliban seized the capital, prompting the US military to suspend evacuations as the United States came under mounting criticism at home over its pullout.
“You’ve got a market that’s been going straight up for quite a while, it wants to pause and take profits and I think Afghanistan over the weekend gave the market that excuse,” said Dennis Dick, a trader at Bright Trading LLC.
“This market has always been climbing the wall of worry ... you got portfolio managers saying look, we’re fully in let’s take some cash just in case situation potentially in Afghanistan starts to get ugly.”
Six of the 11 major S&P sectors declined with energy , consumer discretionary and communication services shares among the top laggards.
Defensive consumer staples hit a record high, while utilities and healthcare gained 0.6% and 0.8%, in a sign of risk-off trading.
Interest rate-sensitive banking stocks also fell 1.2%, tracking US Treasury yields lower.
At 12:07 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 74.12 points, or 0.21%, at 35,441.26.
The S&P 500 was down 15.06 points, or 0.34%, at 4,452.94, and the Nasdaq Composite was down 127.02 points, or 0.86%, at 14,695.88, as heavyweights Microsoft Corp , Apple Inc, Google-owner Alphabet Inc and Amazon.com slipped between 0.2% and 1.7%.
Tesla Inc slid 4.7% after US auto safety regulators opened a formal safety probe into the electric-car maker’s driver assistance system Autopilot after a series of crashes involving emergency vehicles.
Trading volumes have been low in the past few session as market participants juggled between the winding down of a strong earnings season and relatively upbeat economic data against a global resurgence in COVID-19 cases that threatens a strong recovery.
Coronavirus cases in the United States rose by at least 37,024 on Sunday to a total of 36.85 million, according to a Reuters tally.
Earnings reports from companies including Target Corp , Walmart Inc, Home Depot Inc, Robinhood Markets Inc, Nvidia Corp and Macy’s Inc are due later this week.
Tencent Music Entertainment Group dropped 8.4% ahead of its results after market close, as Soros Fund Management dissolved its stake in the Chinese music platform.
Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 1.86-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and for a 2.22-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.
The S&P index recorded 53 new 52-week highs and one new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 52 new highs and 219 new lows.