Durable goods orders off; stocks fall
U.S. stocks tumbled, with the Nasdaq 100 Index falling the most since April, 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 plunged 3.3 percent for the biggest drop since November 2011. Microsoft lost 9.3 percent, the most in 18 months, as software-license sales to businesses were below forecasts. Caterpillar plunged 7.2 percent after forecasting 2015 results that trailed estimates as plunging oil prices signal lower demand from energy companies. Procter & Gamble Co. slid 3.5 percent as a surging U.S. dollar cut into its earnings.
Apple Inc. jumped more than 6 percent in after-market trading after reporting revenue that topped estimates. Yahoo! Inc. surged 6 percent in late trading after announcing a tax-free spinoff of its stake in Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.
“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. “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 1.3 percent to 2,029.55, below its average price for the past 50 days. The Dow Jones Industrial Average declined 291.49 points, or 1.7 percent, to 17,387.21, after losing almost 400 points earlier in the day. The Nasdaq 100 Index tumbled 2.6 percent for the biggest drop since April.
About 6.5 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, 3.6 percent below the three-month average, as exchanges opened for a full day despite a snow storm that shut down travel around New York City overnight and during part of the morning.
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.
“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, Ill.-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.”