COVID-19 cases may cause an S&P 500 correction, analyst says. Buy these stocks in the next dip.

It’s a rough start to the week for markets. Stocks sold off in Asia and Europe, and Dow industrials futures tumbled more than 300 points setting the tone for a turbulent day ahead.

Blame rising COVID-19 cases globally, and the spread of the more infectious delta variant of coronavirus.

What we’re seeing in markets is a “July chop” triggered by the delta variant, according to analyst Thomas Lee of Fundstrat Global Advisors. Our call of the day is from Lee, who said that delta variant concerns could lead to a 5% correction for the S&P 500
SPX,
-0.75%,
setting up certain types of stocks for a strong rally through the rest of 2021.

Daily U.S. COVID-19 cases are approaching the 30,000 mark, but there is a risk that infections could go “parabolic” with the spread of the delta variant, and rise to around 100,000, Lee said.

The delta variant could create panic, because markets and investors typically focus on case counts as opposed to hospitalizations, Lee said — and as many as 82 million Americans remain unvaccinated or without COVID-19 antibodies. However, hospitalizations remain low.

This delta variant has a lot of “bark” and is unnerving for investors, Lee said, even if there’s not a strong “bite.” It could add weight to a “July chop” that has history on its side. Since 1928, a strong first half of the year leads to a flat or negative July.

While the S&P 500 was up 0.7% in July as of the end of last week, “this belies the violent sector rotations taking place within the broader market,” Lee said.

The Fundstrat analyst said that he doesn’t expect the chop caused by the delta variant to cause a 10% or larger decline in stocks, but a 5% drop for the S&P 500 is possible.

So while there’s little reason to be hugely bearish — because bond spreads indicate wider stability for stocks, and volatility measures are not signalling broader weakness — this “vicious” risk-off correction creates opportunities.

Lee is bullish on “epicenter” stocks — shares in companies battered by the pandemic and set to benefit from the reopening — like travel, consumer discretionary, energy, and basic materials. As well, Fundstrat is overweight on Big Tech, with the likes of Facebook
FB,
-0.96%,
Apple
AAPL,
-1.41%,
Amazon
AMZN,
-1.59%,
Netflix
NFLX,
-2.33%
and Google owner Alphabet
GOOGL,
-0.03%
considered strong picks.

The buzz

Billionaire investor Bill Ackman’s blank-check, special-purpose acquisition company Pershing Square Tontine Holdings
PSTH,
-1.81%
will not proceed with its proposed acquisition of a 10% stake in Universal Music Group, owned by French media giant Vivendi
VIV,
-1.75%.
Instead, his Pershing Square Holdings group will make the investment.

On the U.S. economic front, investors can expect the National Association of Home Builders’ housing market index for July, which measures the market conditions for the sale of new single-family homes.

OPEC+, the group of oil-producing countries including Russia and Saudi Arabia, agreed on Sunday to further relax oil production cuts as demand for crude continues to rise and price soar. Production will rise by 400,000 barrels a day each month beginning in August and will eventually undo all of the pandemic-era curbs.

Zoom plans to buy Five9
FIVN,
+0.58%
in an all-stock deal valuing the provider of cloud contact center solutions at $14.7 billion. The acquisition is meant to help Zoom
ZM,
+1.45%
— which became a ubiquitous form of video communication through the pandemic — expand further into the enterprise market.

The markets

U.S. stocks look set for a rough day ahead: Dow industrials futures
YM00,
-1.41%
fell near 350 points while both the S&P 500
ES00,
-1.14%
and Nasdaq
NQ00,
-0.87%
were indicating a drop at the open. Analysts note that investors are focused on the risk to markets from rising COVID-19 cases globally.

Equities tumbled in Europe
SXXP,
-2.18%

UKX,
-2.25%

PX1,
-2.43%

DAX,
-2.60%,
following weakness in Asian markets
NIK,
-1.25%

HSI,
-1.84%

SHCOMP,
-0.01%.

The chart


Chart via Wolf Street financial blog.

Retail sales spikes caused by the pandemic have led to shortages of all kinds. Our chart of the day, via Wolf Richter of the Wolf Street financial blog, shows the “catastrophic” condition of inventories at auto dealers — which before the pandemic made up more than one-third of all retail inventories.

Random reads

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Broke-chain technology: Malaysian police used a giant steamroller to destroy more than 1,000 crypto asset mining rigs seized from a property set up to steal electricity.

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