scorecardUS stocks set to pull back from record highs as COVID and economic worries come to the fore
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US stocks set to pull back from record highs as COVID and economic worries come to the fore

Harry Robertson   

US stocks set to pull back from record highs as COVID and economic worries come to the fore
Stock Market3 min read
  • US stock futures slipped after shares hit all-time highs, with investors taking a breather.
  • High coronavirus rates and new cases in Asia have become a concern for markets.
  • But analysts said next week's earnings calendar could push US stocks upwards again.

US stocks were set to pull back from record highs and open in the red on Friday, as investors weighed short-term economic gloom against better-than-expected earnings and fiscal stimulus.

S&P 500 futures were down 0.54%, Nasdaq futures were off by 0.48% and Dow Jones futures were 0.6% lower.

The dollar and bonds gained, buoyed by safe-haven flows, as investors took stock of the recent rally in equities.

Asia stocks moved broadly lower overnight, under pressure from fresh concerns about coronavirus. European stocks opened down after the European Central Bank held policy unchanged on Thursday.

"The rally in global stocks is taking a breather before the weekend, having posted a new record high on Thursday," said Han Tan, market analyst at trading platform FXTM.

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"Perhaps investors are taking a moment to consolidate their thoughts, as there'll be plenty to take in over the coming days that may dictate whether global stocks can end the month with a flourish."

Next week's calendar features earnings from big tech companies, fourth-quarter economic figures from the US, and the Federal Reserve's next interest rate decision.

US stocks have risen this week, with surprisingly upbeat earnings from Netflix and the Wall Street banks, and President Joe Biden's inauguration and stimulus plans helping sentiment.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq has risen around 4% for the week to record highs, while the S&P 500 has climbed around 2%, also to new records.

Richard Hunter, head of markets at interactive investor, said: "The better-than-expected numbers from Netflix earlier in the week fueled hopes that the remainder of the big tech shares will also justify their lofty valuations."

But some investors are wary of the record-high valuations against a gloomy economic backdrop. New US jobless claims remained elevated last week at 900,000, data showed yesterday. Analysts at Saxo Bank suggested it may be time to "take some chips off the table".

Asian stocks have also risen this week, with Japan's Nikkei up more than 1%. But they slipped back overnight as concerns about coronavirus caused Hong Kong to put new restrictions in place.

The Nikkei 225 fell 0.44% while Hong Kong's Hang Seng tumbled 1.6%. China's CSI 300 eked out a gain of 0.09%.

Stocks opened lower in Europe on Friday. The continent-wide Stoxx 600 fell 0.95% while the UK's FTSE 100 fell 0.53% after disappointing retail data highlighted the impact of the latest lockdowns.

The dollar index rose 0.05% to 90.17 as investors moved back towards the greenback, which is considered a safe asset at times of stress.

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Yields on bonds - which move inversely to price - slipped as investors gravitated towards safer securities. The 10-year US Treasury note yield was down 0.4 basis points to 1.103%.

Oil prices fell for the second day as investors second-guessed the demand outlook. Brent crude was off 1.37% at $55.32 per barrel, while WTI crude was 1.56% lower at $52.30.

"The fall this morning leaves both contracts in the middle of their two-week ranges," said Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst at currency firm Oanda.

He said they "could be potentially vulnerable to deeper corrections" if official data out later on Friday showed oil inventories rose over the last week, which would suggest weaker demand.

Gold fell 0.5% to $1,860.99 an ounce. Bitcoin was set for its biggest weekly fall in months, and was down 5.53% to $31,500 on Friday morning.