Stocks End Mixed as Coronavirus Likely to Cloud Earnings Season

Stocks end mixed as Investors prep for the start of an earnings season loaded with uncertainty and low visibility resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.
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Stocks ended mixed Monday as investors kept their focus squarely on the coronavirus and its impact on the global economy and corporate earnings.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished down 329 points, or 1.39%, to 23,391, the S&P 500 declined 1%, but the Nasdaq rose 0.48%.

Tesla  (TSLA) - Get Report, Netflix  (NFLX) - Get Report, and Amazon  (AMZN) - Get Report led the Nasdaq's advance.

Earnings season begins this week with reports rolling in from big U.S. banks and financial firms such as JPMorgan Chase  (JPM) - Get Report and Wells Fargo  (WFC) - Get Report on Tuesday. The numbers will be released during a period of uncertainty and low visibility resulting from the pandemic.

U.S. stocks are coming off their biggest week of gains since 1974 after the Federal Reserve announced a plan to pump more than $2.3 trillion into the economy.

The S&P 500 jumped 12% for the holiday-shortened week despite 6.6 million people filing for unemployment benefits as companies curtailed operations, restaurants closed and hotels welcomed very few guests during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Dow climbed 13% for the week and the Nasdaq posted a weekly gain of 11%.

"The downside we’re seeing (Monday) shouldn’t be interpreted too concretely as a reaction to more bad news, as last week we went on a tear and giving back some of the gains isn’t unusual," said Mike Loewengart, managing Director of investment strategy at E*Trade. "But this week will be somewhat of an inkblot test in that there are multiple ways to read the state of play as earnings roll out: Is the downturn fully priced in, or is there cause for more downward pressure? 

"Marketwatchers may be beginning to believe that markets have stabilized on the heels of an extraordinary amount of monetary and fiscal measures enacted to counter the economic blow of the coronavirus," he added. "On the earnings front, financials are the first to take the stage and while this sector tends to be a bellwether of overall earnings health, it has been far less affected than other consumer-driven pockets of the market like retail and travel. Pharma and health care earnings will also be closely watched for any news of progress on the testing and treatment fronts."

Oil prices were higher Monday after OPEC leaders, as well as non-member allies, finally reached a conclusive agreement that will cut production by around 10 million barrels a day.

The deal, which begins on May 1 and lasts for two years, could see supplies cut by as much as 20 million barrels per day - or a fifth of world output - if G-20 member states agree to participate in the historic deal, which was reached after four days of negotiations by video conference.

West Texas Intermediate crude futures for May delivery, which are tightly connected to U.S. gas prices, slipped 0.05% to $22.71 a barrel.

The number of confirmed global cases of the coronavirus has risen to 1,904,566, according to the Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering, and deaths increased to 118,459.

The U.S. has 572,169 cases of the coronavirus, the most in the world, according to Johns Hopkins CSSE. Deaths in the U.S. have risen to 23,252, also the most in the world.