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Stock futures open lower after worst selloff since June

Stock futures opened lower on Thursday after a sell-off earlier in the day led the S&P 500 to its worst single-session drop in nearly three months.

The Nasdaq underperformed as tech stocks swooned, and the index dipped back below 12,000 after crossing that threshold for the first time every just a day earlier. Shares of Apple (AAPL) slid 8%, Amazon (AMZN) fell 4.6% and Zoom Video Communications (ZM) – a darling of the “stay at home trade” during the pandemic – dropped 10% on the day.

But heading into Thursday’s session and over the past several months, a number of market pundits had warned of frothiness in the markets and crowding in tech stocks especially, as investors sought haven in software stocks during the pandemic.

“A sudden sell-off in tech may raise some red flags, but sector rotation is a good thing,” Rick Swope, senior director of investor education for E-Trade Financial Corporation, said in an email Thursday. “While adding breadth to the market, dedicated traders may benefit from seeking opportunities outside of overbought names.”

The plunge came in absence of a clear external catalyst, with newly released data on weekly jobless claims in fact topping expectations Thursday morning, and developments around a coronavirus vaccine candidate coming in increasingly constructively. Friday’s August jobs report from the US Labor Department is expected to show moderating gains in net payrolls, and the first unemployment rate below 10% since March.

“Most signs still point to an economic recovery. But there are a lot of obstacles between now and the end of the year: Stimulus uncertainty, budget negotiations, presidential debates, corporate conferences, and the election,” said Lindsey Bell, Chief Investment Strategist for Ally Invest. “The next few months could be a bumpy ride.”

Some of the more downtrodden names for the year to date so far managed to stay in positive territory during Thursday’s session, or at least averted the worst of Thursday’s drop. While all 12 sectors in the S&P 500 were down on the day, the energy, utilities and financials sectors outperformed, falling no more than 1.6% each. Shares of Carnival Corporation (CCL) rose 5% after the company said it would be resuming some cruise operations under its Costa brand this weekend, with the announcement bringing some other peer cruise and travel stocks higher in sympathy.

6:01 p.m. ET Thursday: Stock futures open lower after S&P 500’s worst day since June

Here were the main moves in equity markets, as of 6:03 p.m. ET:

  • S&P 500 futures (ES=F): 3,450.25, down 11.25 points or 0.33%

  • Dow futures (YM=F): 28,269.00, down 82 points or 0.29%

  • Nasdaq futures (NQ=F): 11,725.5, down 75 points, or 0.64%

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – MARCH 18: Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on March 18, 2020 in New York City. The Dow fell more than 1,200 points today as COVID-19 fears continue to roil world markets. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

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