US stocks have tumbled in thin trade, with the S&P 500 posting its biggest daily decline in four weeks, as soaring coronavirus cases and uncertainty about a fiscal relief bill in Washington DC dimmed the outlook for the US economic recovery.
The United States, Russia and France set daily records for coronavirus infections.
The number of hospitalised people in the US with COVID-19 jumped to a two-month high.
Travel-related stocks, vulnerable to COVID-19 related curbs, fell sharply.
The S&P 1500 airlines index fell about 6.0 per cent and cruise line operators Carnival Corp and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd fell more than that.
“Fears about COVID-19 resurgence and the continued failure to reach a fiscal policy package between Republicans and Democrats has investors unnerved,” said Michael Arone, chief investment strategist at State Street Global Advisors in Boston.
“Those are the two biggest drivers of today’s decline.”
The energy index tracked a more than 3.0 per cent fall in oil prices.
The economically sensitive industrials and financials also posted steep declines among S&P sectors.
The big price moves came as trading volume was substantially less than the daily October average.
“From our clients’ perspective, the uncertainty is causing them to stay on the sidelines. So you’re seeing a lack of buyers, generally speaking,” said King Lip, chief strategist at Baker Avenue Asset Management in San Francisco.
US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin about COVID-19 relief legislation.
Wall Street’s fear gauge hit its highest in more than seven weeks as uncertainty grew over the November 3 election.
About 60 million people in the US have voted in a record-breaking early turnout as US President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden entered their final week of campaigning.
It is also one of the busiest weeks of the third-quarter earnings season that will feature results from mega-cap US tech firms including Apple Inc, Amazon.com Inc, Google-parent Alphabet Inc and Facebook Inc.
The tech sector is among the only three sectors apart from healthcare and consumer staples expected to post an increase in profit from a year earlier.
Of the 139 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported earnings so far, 83.5 per cent have beaten Wall Street expectations, according to Refinitiv data.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 647.1 points, or 2.28 per cent, to 27,688.47, the S&P 500 lost 64.15 points, or 1.85 per cent, to 3,401.24 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 189.35 points, or 1.64 per cent, to 11,358.94.
Software company Oracle Corp fell after German rival SAP abandoned medium-term profitability targets and warned of a longer-than-expected recovery time from the pandemic hit.
Hasbro Inc tumbled as quarterly adjusted revenue fell due to coronavirus-led delays in production of movies and TV shows.
Companies deemed stay-at-home winners including Amazon.com Inc, Zoom Video Communications Inc and video game companies Activision Blizzard Inc and Take-Two Interactive Software Inc bucked the downtrend and rose.