Mon | Sep 23, 2019

Major US stock indexes finish lower, snapping 3-day rally

Published:Wednesday | August 21, 2019 | 12:35 AM
The New York Stock Exchange.
The New York Stock Exchange.

Stocks fell broadly on Wall Street Tuesday after another slide in bond yields and a mixed batch of corporate earnings weighed on the market.

The selling pulled every major sector lower, snapping a three-day winning streak for the S&P 500.

Financial sector stocks bore the brunt of the decline as investors reacted to lower yields. Technology stocks, which like banks, have tended to lead the market’s gains recently, gave up an early gain.

Tuesday’s market slide is the latest twist for stocks, which have been caught in the grips of volatile trading all month as anxious investors alternate between seeking shelter in bonds and pouncing on stocks when prices slump.

“The market is taking a little bit of a breather here,” said Tony Roth, chief investment officer at Wilmington Trust. “You’re getting just a little bit of consolidation after the rally we’ve had over the last three or four days.”

The S&P 500 fell 23.14 points, or 0.8 per cent, to 2,900.51. The Dow Jones Industrial Average slid 173.35, or 0.7 per cent, to 25,962.44. The Nasdaq, which is heavily weighted with technology stocks, dropped 54.25, or 0.7 per cent, to 7,948.56. The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks gave up 10.84 points, or 0.7 per cent, to 1,498.01.

All four indexes are on track to finish the month with losses.

The market has been highly volatile all month as investors try to parse conflicting signals on the United States (US) economy and determine whether a recession is on the horizon. A key concern is that the escalating and costly trade conflict between the world’s two biggest economies will hamper growth around the globe.

Earlier this month, US President Donald Trump announced plans to extend tariffs across virtually all Chinese imports, many of them consumer products that were exempt from earlier rounds of tariffs.

Uncertainty over trade clouded an otherwise strong quarterly report card from Home Depot.

The home-improvement retailer cut its sales expectations for the year Tuesday, citing declining lumber prices and the potential impacts to the US consumer arising from the recently announced tariffs.

That didn’t scare off investors. Home Depot shares jumped 4.4 per cent, the biggest gain in the S&P 500, as investors focused on the company’s solid quarterly results. Lowe’s rode its rival’s surge, finishing with a three per cent gain.

Kohl’s, meanwhile, was the biggest decliner in the S&P 500. The department store operator reported a sharper-than-expected decline in sales at established locations during the second quarter. The stock lost 6.9 per cent.

Another decline in bond yields also weighed on the market Tuesday. The yield on the 10-year Treasury slipped to 1.55 per cent from 1.59 per cent late Monday.

When bond yields fall, it pulls down the interest rates that banks pocket on mortgages and other consumer loans. That helped pull financial stocks lower. Bank of America dropped two per cent.

Last week, many stock indexes around the world struck their lowest levels this year, before a late rally suggested that some calm was returning to the markets in what is a traditionally low-volume time of the year. Analysts say the concerns that drove last week’s sell-off could resurface at any time.

Investors will be seeking new insight this week into the US Federal Reserve’s willingness to make further interest rate cuts.

The central bank is releasing the minutes from last month’s meeting of policymakers Wednesday. Two days later, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell is scheduled to deliver a speech at the central bank’s annual conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Investors are hoping that the Fed will continue to cut interest rates to shore up economic growth. The Fed lowered interest rates by a quarter-point at its last meeting, the first cut in a decade.

“Coming into this meeting Friday for the speech, the market is really going to be looking for something that suggests that [Powell] has changed his approach and that this is going to be more of a systematic lowering of interest rates,” Roth said. “He may not provide what the market wants.”

Benchmark crude oil fell 3 cents to settle at US$56.18 a barrel. Brent crude oil, the international standard, rose 29 cents to close at US$60.03 a barrel. Natural gas rose one cent to US$2.22 per 1,000 cubic feet.

AP