Stock futures edged down Tuesday evening as overnight trading began, pointing to a slightly lower open to kick off trading for July, the third quarter and second half of the year.
Earlier, stocks rallied to close out their best overall quarter since 1998, and best second quarter on record, following the S&P 500’s near-20% run-up for the April through June period. The Dow and Nasdaq rose about 17.5% and 30%, respectively, during the second quarter.
The historic rally came as market participants eyed a swift infusion of fiscal and monetary policy stimulus to bolster the virus-stricken economy, and as states and cities across the country began easing their lockdown restrictions in the middle of the quarter.
But the recent new surges in coronavirus infections in the South and West, and subsequent rollbacks and pauses of further reopenings, could put a cap on stocks in the near-term, according to some analysts.
“We’ve seen a huge move in the second quarter, and to be fair, it’s been driven by a lot of positivity,” Tom Essaye, founder of the Sevens Report, told Yahoo Finance’s The First Trade on Tuesday. “If we think about where we were at the end of March, we’ve come a long way, not just with the virus – even though we’re seeing a rebound now – we’ve made some progress there, and even the economy is starting to bounce back.”
Still, “the virus count is rising,” Essaye added. “That at a minimum is going to delay the economic reopening, and markets have to price that in a bit. And I think there is a bit more for it to turn sideways or further dip.”
States in the South and West continued to struggle with keeping infections in check. As of Tuesday’s data, Texas posted its worst day for new coronavirus infections and hospitalizations so far since the start of the pandemic, with the state seeing 6,975 positive tests for a total of 159,986. Cases in California rose by 6,367 for the state’s second-largest jump yet.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told a Senate committee Tuesday he “would not be surprised” if coronavirus cases rise to 100,000 per day in the U.S., from the current one-day average of around 40,000, if the country is unable to keep the pandemic under control.
The lack of visibility over the coronavirus pandemic, corporate profits and trajectory of economic activity has led to an absence of conviction among market participants as to the direction of stocks in the back half of the year.
According to a survey released earlier this week from market research firm DataTrek, market participants lack a consensus view on where the S&P 500 is heading. The distribution of responses among 341 respondents answering where they felt the S&P 500 was headed – from up over 10% from current levels, to down more than 10% from current levels – was near evenly split.
6:07 p.m. ET: Stock futures open slightly lower
Here were the main moves at the start of the overnight session for U.S. equity futures, as of 6:07 p.m. ET:
S&P 500 futures (ES=F): 3,086.5, down 3.75 points or 0.12%
Dow futures (YM=F): 25,668.00, down 21 points, or 0.08%
Nasdaq futures (NQ=F): 10,140.00, down 7.25 points, or 0.07%