Stocks – Wall Street off Lows, but Under Pressure on Airline, U.S-China Jitters

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Wall Street moved off session lows on Monday, but sentiment remained pressured, led by growing investor jitters over rising U.S.-China tensions and a slump in travel-related stocks after billionaire investor Warren Buffet sold his holdings in airlines stocks.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.87%, or 205 points, the S&P 500 slipped 0.51%, while the Nasdaq Composite rose 0.17%.

In a virtual townhall on Fox (NASDAQ:FOX) News, U.S. President Donald Trump stepped up his criticism of China’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis, accusing Beijing of making a “horrible mistake” and likening their actions to putting gasoline on an uncontrollable fire.

Warning that the Covid-19 pandemic had changed the fundamentals for airlines, Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRKa) Chairman Warren Buffett said the company had sold its major stakes in airlines stocks during the previous quarter.

American Airlines (NASDAQ:AAL) dropped 10%, United Airlines (UAL) fell 9% and Delta Air Lines (NYSE:DAL) sank 9%.

In another blow to investor sentiment, Buffet signaled the broader market has remained somewhat frothy as Berkshire held off making significant purchases despite the selloff in March.

“We have not done anything because we don’t see anything attractive to do,” he said.

The hit to investor sentiment comes despite some on Wall Street suggesting that economic activity had bottomed.

“Economic activity has probably bottomed now,” Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) said in a report on Monday. “Lockdowns and social distancing are starting to diminish as many countries are cautiously reopening their economies.”

Energy stocks, however, bucked the broader trend, as crude prices continued their road to recovery following their plunge two weeks ago on hopes that the reopening of the economy could kickstart crude demand.

Also keeping a lid on broader losses, the majority of FAANG names traded above the flatline, with Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) leading the pack, up about 2%.

Elsewhere, Disney fell 3% after Moffett Nathanson downgraded the stock to neutral from buy just a day ahead of its earnings.

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