Monitors display stock market information in Times Square, New York, the US. Picture: JEENAH MOON/BLOOMBERG
Monitors display stock market information in Times Square, New York, the US. Picture: JEENAH MOON/BLOOMBERG

New York — US stocks closed lower on Tuesday as markets grappled with the latest figures on the coronavirus outbreak, while oil prices tumbled in a volatile session ahead of key talks by petroleum producers.

After a torrid Monday rally in New York that boosted European and Asian markets on Tuesday, Wall Street appeared poised for a second straight positive session, with the Dow piling on almost 1,000 points at its session peak.

But the rally soon faded. The coronavirus crisis has forced markets to try to wade through a series of conflicting data on the course of the disease in recognition that the economy will only be able to return to normal once the virus is under control.

Investors were cheered by data showing New York's three-day average of hospitalisations had gone down, and some improved data points out of Italy and other hotspots.

But elsewhere the virus remains an untamed threat. Japan declared a month-long state of emergency over a spike in coronavirus cases.

Major US indices all finished in the red, with the Dow slipping 0.1%  at 22,653.86. The  S&P 500 closed down 0.2% at 2,659.41, while the Nasdaq slipped 0.3% to close at  7,887.26. 

"While today's reversal was not pretty, safe-haven assets remained weak, and despite the last-minute plunge the major indices held up to most of their gains from yesterday," said Gorilla Trades strategist Ken Berman.

"Yesterday's short-covering rally ran out of steam this afternoon, but there was no sign of panic on the Street, even as the grim economic outlook weighed on sentiment in the second half of the day."

Gregori Volokhine of Meeschaert Financial Services said investors have been encouraged by the muscular response of policymakers in Washington and beyond to try to protect the economy from the worst devastation of the Covie-19 shutdowns.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Tuesday he is asking Congress to reinforce a new small business loan programme that has been overwhelmed with applications, requesting another $250bn for the program originally funded with $349bn.

In other markets, oil prices finished sharply lower ahead of a heavily anticipated Thursday summit of major oil producers.

Ten oil-producing nations from outside the Opec+ alliance including the US  have been invited to a meeting aimed at reaching an agreement to reduce oversupply, Russian news agency Tass reported Tuesday.

During a meeting to be held via video conference on Thursday, Opec and its allies will discuss oil production cuts.

Anticipation of a resolution to a bitter fight between Saudi Arabia and Russia boosted oil prices late last week. But oil has fallen over the last two days, in part because of concerns about a weakening demand outlook due to the coronavirus.

Brent was down 3.6% to $31.87 a barrel, while in New York West Texas Intermediate fell 9.4% to $23.63 a barrel.

AFP

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