Wall Street set to open lower as crude slump batters energy stocks

(Reuters) – U.S. stocks were set to fall on Monday as energy shares took a hit from sliding oil prices, while investors braced for a week packed with earnings reports and economic data that could provide more evidence of the damage wrought by the coronavirus.

Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM.N) shed 5.6% in premarket trading and Chevron Corp (CVX.N) 4.8% as the U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) contract CLc1 fell 35% to levels last seen in 1998 on concerns of oversupply.

Wall Street’s main indexes have rallied this month, with the S&P 500 .SPX ending Friday with its biggest two-week percentage gain since 1974 on a raft of global stimulus and hopes the virus was nearing a peak in the United States.

The Nasdaq .IXIC also registered its best two weeks since 2001, powered by new record highs for Netflix Inc (NFLX.O) and Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) – deemed “stay-at-home” stocks as widespread lockdowns fueled demand for online streaming and home delivery of groceries.

Still, the benchmark S&P 500 is about 15% below its all-time high and analysts have warned of a deep economic slump from the halt in business activity and millions of layoffs.

“The stock market would like to look through 2020 to 2021 and would like to look through a V-shaped recovery,” said Tom Martin, senior portfolio manager at GLOBALT Investments in Atlanta.

“But the reality is, it’s not V-shaped, it’s maybe not even U-shaped, it’s maybe a long ‘L’.”

Oilfield services provider Halliburton Co (HAL.N) slid 6.6% after joining bigger rival Schlumberger (SLB.N) in taking impairment hits in the first quarter and issuing a bleak outlook for its North American business.

Oil-related firms Apache Corp (APA.N), Marathon Petroleum (MPC.N), Hess Corp (HES.N) and Schlumberger fell between 0.8% and 3.1%.

After U.S. banks kicked off the quarterly earnings season with painful forecasts for 2020, investors will keep a close watch on reports from Delta Air Lines Inc (DAL.N), Southwest Airlines Co (LUV.N) and Netflix Inc (NFLX.O) later in the week.

At 8:49 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis 1YMcv1 were down 492 points, or 2.04%. S&P 500 e-minis EScv1 were down 53.5 points, or 1.86% and Nasdaq 100 e-minis NQcv1 were down 86.5 points, or 0.98%.

Hopes have also risen for a gradual reopening of the economy after President Donald Trump cited signs of plateauing in the virus outbreak last week and outlined new guidelines for states to pull out of shutdowns.

But his plan was thin on details and left the decision largely up to state governors.

“The recovery will be much slower than the market is currently pricing in simply because social distancing measures can be relaxed but not removed until we have a vaccine or a very effective cure,” said Andrea Cicione, head of strategy at TS Lombard in London.

In economic news, surveys on April U.S. manufacturing and services sectors are due on Thursday, while U.S. jobless claims are forecast to have hit as many as 5 million in the week ended April 18, on top of 22 million claims in the previous four weeks.

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