Nasdaq retreats as technology stocks lose favor

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The Nasdaq closed 1.4% lower and the S&P dipped slightly on Tuesday as investors sold off technology stocks that benefited from virus lockdowns, favoring sectors that have suffered most during the pandemic instead on hopes a COVID-19 vaccine will turn the economy around.

The front facade of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) is seen in New York City, New York, U.S., November 9, 2020. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

The heavyweight technology .SPLRCT and consumer discretionary sectors .SPLRCD fell sharply and communication services .SPLRCL languished while investors favored small caps and economically sensitive energy .SPNY and industrials .SPLRCI sectors as well as value stocks in consumer staples .SPLRCS.

The main U.S. indexes had hit intraday peaks on Monday after Pfizer Inc PFE.N said a vaccine it is developing with German partner BioNTech SE 22UAy.DE was 90% effective against COVID-19.

“It’s the reopening trade. To the extent the economy can reopen sooner rather than later the stay-at-home stocks won’t be as valuable,” said Jim Paulsen, chief investment strategist at The Leuthold Group in Minneapolis.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI rose 262.95 points, or 0.9%, to 29,420.92, the S&P 500 .SPX lost 4.97 points, or 0.14%, to 3,545.53 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC dropped 159.93 points to 11,553.86.

In small caps, the S&P 600 index .SPCY rose 2.6%, however, and the Russell 2000 .RUT climbed 1.9%. Inc AMZN.O, which finished down 3.5%, Facebook Inc FB.O, off 2.3%, and Microsoft MSFT.O, which fell 3.4%, extended Monday’s losses and weighed heavily on the tech-laden Nasdaq throughout the session. The stocks have boomed during the virus induced work-from-home trend.

After hitting a record in Monday’s session, the Philadelphia Semiconductor Index .SOX underperformed sharply on Tuesday, finishing down 3%, with Nvidia NVDA.O, Advanced Micro Devices AMD.O and Xilinx XLNX.O all falling more than 6%.

And the S&P’s value stock index .IVX, which tends to outperform coming out of a recession, gained 1.3% on Tuesday compared with a 1.15 decline for the less economically sensitive growth index .IGX.

“Everybody’s coming out of the woodwork saying the same thing that now is the time to be buying value” and selling technology said Robert Pavlik, senior portfolio manager at Dakota Wealth in Fairfield, Connecticut.

“People believe the Pfizer vaccine is going to initiate a reopening of the economy forcing people back on the road, back to work and back into the stores,” said Pavlik. “There’s some warrant to it but to see this kind of action is extreme.”

(GRAPHIC: Five-year performance gap between growth and value stocks – )

Trading was also choppy at times as some investors monitored for election uncertainty after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo became the latest Republican to suggest President Donald Trump would not concede the White House to Democrat Joe Biden.

But Leuthold’s Paulsen said most market participants have priced in a Biden win and have been largely ignoring the Trump administration’s election outcome complaints because they have not produced evidence of problems with votes.

While President-elect Biden hailed the vaccine progress he has cautioned that it would be “many more months” before it is widely available. Meanwhile, daily new U.S. cases topped 100,000 for the sixth straight day.

U.S. Health Secretary Alex Azar said on Tuesday that if Pfizer submits its interim COVID-19 vaccine to health regulators as quickly as expected, the U.S. government expects to start vaccinations in December.

A vaccine breakthrough may weaken the case for another large U.S. fiscal stimulus bill, although some investors say that relief is still needed for struggling businesses.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, said on Tuesday he saw no need for a multitrillion-dollar coronavirus relief bill.

Intel INTC.O and Apple Inc AAPL.O both closed lower after Apple introduced its first notebook computer with an Apple-designed microprocessor.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.80-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.53-to-1 ratio favored advancers.

The S&P 500 posted 11 new 52-week highs and no new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 80 new highs and 20 new lows.

On U.S. exchanges 12.61 billion shares changed hands compared with the 9.88 billion average from the last 20 sessions though Tuesday’s volume was well below Monday’s 17.35 billion tally.

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