Stock futures slip as Wall Street struggles to extend last week's gains

Traders work during the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on March 5, 2020 at Wall Street in New York City.

Johannes Eisele | AFP | Getty Images

Stock futures declined early Monday, giving back earlier gains as investors tried to build on last week’s solid performance.

Dow Jones Industrial Average futures pointed to a loss of about 50 points at the open. S&P 500 futures and Nasdaq-100 futures also traded lower.

Last week, the S&P 500 and Dow rose 1.3% and 2.3%, respectively, for their third straight weekly advances.

Those gains came as investors flocked into more beaten-up value names amid positive vaccine trial news from Moderna and a partnership between Pfizer and BioNTech. ViacomCBS — which is down about 40% for the year — gained nearly 10% last week. Gap jumped 10.6% in that time period and United Airlines rose 3.8%. The iShares Edge MSCI USA Value Factor ETF (VLUE) jumped 3.5% last week as well.

But those advances came at the expense of major tech stocks such as Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Alphabet and Microsoft. Facebook and Alphabet each lost more than 1% last week. Microsoft dropped 5.1% in that time period while Amazon and Netflix slid 7.4% and 10.2%, respectively. Those declines led to the Nasdaq Composite’s first weekly loss in three weeks. These stocks have been the stalwarts on Wall Street this year as investors bet these companies’ business models can keep them growing during the pandemic.

“All the talk about a rotation out of technology and into more ‘value’ oriented areas, will grow in the coming weeks,” said Douglas Busch, founder of ChartSmarter, in a note. “if we lose technologies leadership in a meaningful way, I think it will adversely affect the overall market.”

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“If the sector can just take a rest, and keep in the middle of the pack akin to a smart jockey that has a lot of horse under him in a thoroughbred race, then it will likely see a surge again into the fall,” he added.

The S&P 500 tech sector dropped 1.2% last week and was one of only two to decline by more than 1% in that time period.

Stimulus in focus

Traders also turned their eyes to Washington as lawmakers begin negotiations on new stimulus measures.

Earlier this year, President Donald Trump signed a stimulus package worth roughly $2 trillion which expanded unemployment benefits for those laid off during the pandemic. Among these expanded benefits, a $600-a-week check was included. However, these extra payments are set to expire later this month.

“There is a lot of uncertainty about the size and shape of the next bill, particularly on the consumer side,” said Aneta Markowska, chief financial economist at Jefferies, in a note.

“We believe consensus expects a roughly $1-$1.5 package, so if the draft comes in on the high-end of that range, it would be seen as a positive surprise,” Markowska added. “In light of the deteriorating growth momentum, it is highly unlikely that Republicans under-deliver, which means that risks are skewed to the high side.”

Coronavirus cases have been rising at an alarming rate. Data compiled by Johns Hopkins University showed more than 70,000 cases were confirmed on Saturday. That marks two straight days of at least 70,000 new infections confirmed.

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