by Mark Decambre & Anora M. Gaudiano, Marketwatch
U.S. stock benchmarks on Thursday trimmed earlier losses but were still in negative territory a day after posting a trio of all-time highs and closing above the psychologically important level of 23,000 for the Dow.
Political tensions in Europe, lackluster economic reports out of China, and the anniversary of the markets’ worst percentage drop in history were cited as some of the reasons for the downdraft.
What are stock indexes doing?
The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +0.02% which was down more than 100 points in early trade, was off by 24 points, or 0.1%, to 23,132. The S&P 500 indexSPX, +0.03% fell 2 points, or 0.1%, to 2,559, with five of its 11 main sectors trading lower. Consumer staples and technology stocks were hardest hit, down about 0.6%, but were balanced by big gains in telecoms and utilities sectors, which were up 0.9%.
The Nasdaq Composite Index COMP, -0.29% slumped 31 points, or 0.5%, to 6,593.
What’s driving markets?
Thursday also marks the anniversary of the 1987 stock-market crash, and some investors have voiced concerns about how sharp stocks have run up since the November 2016 election, shaking off U.S. political and geopolitical and valuation concerns, among others.
Meanwhile, Catalonia’s president, Carles Puigdemont, failed to meet a demand to give up the region’s push for independence. The Madrid government responded by suggesting it will trigger the process for imposing central control when it holds a special cabinet meeting on Saturday. A suspension of autonomy in Catalonia could potentially spur fresh protests and instability for one of the eurozone’s biggest members.
Global stock markets came under pressure following reports that growth in China slowed in the third quarter. Stocks in Hong Kong HSI, -1.92% dropped 1.9%, led by losses for property, banking and tech shares.
Many believe stocks will continue to rise on hopes that the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump will get a tax deal done. U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin warned in a recent interview with Politico that stocks could take a big hit if tax cuts aren’t implemented soon.
Which stocks are in focus?
Philip Morris International Inc. PM, -3.88% shares dropped 4.2% after adjusted earnings and sales fell short of expectations.
Verizon Communications Inc.’s VZ, +1.15% shares rose 1.7% after reporting third-quarter results that mostly beat analysts’ estimates and affirmed its 2017 outlook.
eBay Inc. EBAY, -1.79% shares fell 1.7% after the online marketplace cut its annual profit outlook for the second straight quarter.
Apple Inc.’s AAPL, -0.01% stock dropped 2.7%, putting it on track to suffer the biggest decline in a month. Also weighing on Apple was a report in The Wall Street Journal that the new Apple Watch’s independent cellular connection feature was abruptly cut off in China, without explanation.
Shares of database-software company MongoDB Inc. MDB, +0.81% soared 25% in their debut trading, after pricing its initial public offering at $24 a share late Wednesday.
Alcoa Inc. AA, +0.13% shares slid 1.3% after an earnings miss.
United Continental Holdings Inc. UAL, +0.22% sank 11% even as the airline reported an earnings beat despite weather-related cancellations.
American Express Co. AXP, -0.20% shares were trading 0.6% lower. The company topped Wall Street expectations on earnings and raised its guidance, and said Stephen Squeri, the current vice chairman, will become chief executive and chairman on Feb. 1.
After the close, PayPal Holdings Inc. PYPL, +3.88% is scheduled to report.
What are strategists saying?
“It is difficult to say whether today’s modest pullback is in deference to the 1987 crash or something else,” said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at BMO Private Bank.
“While there is no question that markets are overvalued and we could see some corrections, the path of least resistance for stocks is still to go higher. I will start reducing risk when credit spreads begin to widen and when we see sustained signs of rising inflation,” Ablin said.
“To me, it appears that the Catalan impasse has triggered a global selloff across the equity markets, because the Asian session was rather quiet. The selloff really picked up as European traders stepped in,” said Ipek Ozkardeskaya, senior market analyst at LCG, in emailed comments.
What economic reports are due?:
First-time jobless claims fell to 222,000 in the week ended Oct. 14, marking the lowest level for claims from those seeking employment benefits since March 1973, highlighting continued strength in the labor market. Economists polled by MarketWatch had forecast claims to come in at 244,000.
Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Fed manufacturing index, or the Philly Fed index, surged four points to 27.9, representing a 5-month high. Any reading over zero signals improving conditions. Economists had forecast a reading of 20.2.
The index of leading U.S. economic indicators fell 0.2% in September, marking the first drop in 12 months, partly due to the effect of recent devastating storms.
What are other assets doing?
European stocks SXXP, -0.63% ended firmly lower, with Spain’s IBEX 35 indexIBEX, -0.74% losing 0.7% as the Spain-Catalonia standoff continued.
In Asia ADOW, -0.16% the Shanghai Composite SHCOMP, -0.34% lost 0.3%.
Oil prices fell sharply. West Texas Intermediate crude CLX7, -1.23% dropped 71 cents, or 1.4%, to $51.53 a barrel.
Gold futures GCZ7, +0.65% rose 0.5%, to $1,289.80 a troy ounce, while the ICE U.S. Dollar Index DXY, -0.30% edged lower. The euro EURUSD, +0.5515% was trading higher against the dollar at $1.1851.
—Barbara Kollmeyer contributed to this article.
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