Here are the two problems being blamed for today’s big stock market drop
U.S. stocks tumbled, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average falling the most since October, as a drop in durable-goods orders and disappointing results from Caterpillar Inc. to Microsoft Corp. heightened concern about the economy’s strength.
Technology shares in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index (SPX) fell the most since 2011. Microsoft lost 9.9 percent as software-license sales to businesses were below forecasts. Caterpillar plunged 7.3 percent after forecasting 2015 results that trailed estimates as plunging oil prices signal lower demand from energy companies. DuPont Co. dropped 2.8 percent as a stronger dollar cuts into the chemical maker’s profit. Procter & Gamble Co. and United Technologies Corp. declined at least 2 percent after saying the surging greenback will lower full-year earnings.
“Currency headwinds, as well as evidence of a continual deceleration of global growth, is having a major impacts on quarterly results,” Chad Morganlander, a money manager at St. Louis-based Stifel, Nicolaus & Co., which oversees about $160 billion, said in a phone interview. “Coupled with that, durable goods orders were somewhat disappointing, which scotches any optimism for today’s trading session.”
The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index slipped 1.6 percent to 2,024.38 at 11:01 a.m. in New York, below its average price for the past 50 days. The Dow declined 362.23 points, or 2.1 percent, to 17,316.47. Trading in S&P 500 companies was 27 percent above the 30-day average for this time of the day.
Wall Street began a full day of trading despite a snow storm that shut down travel around New York City overnight and during part of the morning.
Exchanges remained open despite the storm that hit the New York region. The last time snow prompted the New York Stock Exchange to shut down was in 1996, according to the exchange’s website.
With overnight travel bans in New York, where more than 160,000 securities industries professionals work, exchanges and the firms that rely on them expected to run on skeleton staffs and divert work to offices where weather is better.
The travel ban came to an end on Tuesday morning and the subway service was due to resume after the storm brought less snow than had been forecast. The National Weather Service downgraded its assessment to a winter storm from a blizzard, while Hometown Forecast Services said New York City may get no more than 12 inches of snow.
The S&P 500 is trading at 17.1 times the projected earnings of its members, about 16 percent above its 10-year average. The multiple reached a five-year high at the end of last year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The measure rallied 1.6 percent last week after the European Central Bank announced a 1.1 trillion-euro ($1.2 trillion) bond-buying plan.
Yahoo! Inc. and Apple Inc. are among 27 companies releasing quarterly results on Tuesday.
Of the S&P 500 members that have reported profit so far, 75 percent have exceeded projections that analysts have lowered since late last year. Analysts predict profit at S&P 500 companies climbed 1.1 percent in the final three months of 2014, down from an October estimate of 8.5 percent.
“Everybody is aware of weakness in crude oil, but you’re seeing spillover into large, industrial companies like Caterpillar and that may be giving people pause,” Peter Jankovskis, who helps oversee $1.9 billion as co-chief investment officer of Lisle, Illinois-based OakBrook Investments LLC., said in a phone interview. “And certainly Microsoft is a bellwether of the tech industry, and that’s another cause that’s having people pulling back.”
Multinational corporations flooded the market with fourth-quarter results as Federal Reserve officials gather in Washington for a two-day policy meeting. The central bank is trying to determine whether declining oil prices, a slowdown in European growth and any fallout from the Greek elections will threaten the U.S. recovery as it considers raising interest rates. Chair Janet Yellen told reporters after the last meeting not to expect higher borrowing costs before the end of April.
Orders for business equipment unexpectedly fell in December for a fourth month, signaling a global growth slowdown is weighing on American companies. Bookings for non-military capital goods excluding aircraft dropped 0.6 percent for a second month, data from the Commerce Department showed. Demand for all durable goods − items meant to last at least three years − declined 3.4 percent, the worst performance since August.
Slackening demand from Europe and some emerging markets is probably weighing on orders, making companies less willing to invest in new equipment.
Purchases of new homes in the U.S. increased 12 percent in December to a 481,000 annualized pace from a 431,000 rate in the prior month, figures from the Commerce Department showed Tuesday in Washington. Consumer confidence in the U.S. increased this month as declining unemployment and lower fuel costs lifted Americans’ outlooks.
The Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index, known as the VIX, jumped 18 percent to 18.27. The gauge is down 4.8 percent for the year.
Nine of 10 main industries in the S&P 500 declined. Technology shares plunged 3.3 percent, the most since 2011,and industrial shares lost 1.8 percent.