Stocks fall again as big swings follow market's plunge

Michael Capolino
Trader Michael Capolino works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. The market's recent decline was set off by a sharp drop in bond prices and a corresponding increase in yields last week and early this week.
Richard Drew | AP

U.S. stocks are lower Thursday and heading toward their sixth consecutive decline. Major indexes are making wide swings as investors try to gauge the best place to put their money amid signs of slowing global economic growth and concerns over trade and interest rates.

Banks and health care companies are taking some of the worst losses while technology companies have stemmed their recent declines. Stocks had their biggest losses in eight months Wednesday, and tech was the hardest-hit sector. After months of declines, gold made its biggest jump in two years.

Bond yields, which have spiked over the last week, slid after the Labor Department said consumer prices grew only slightly in September. That's a sign inflation remains under control and suggests the Federal Reserve won't have to raise interest rates at a faster pace, which initially gave a modest boost to stocks.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose as much as 84 points Thursday morning but by mid-afternoon had fallen 438 points. It plunged 831 points a day earlier.

The market's recent decline was set off by a sharp drop in bond prices and a corresponding increase in yields last week and early this week. And there are lingering concerns about the unresolved trade dispute between the U.S. and China. Strong earnings reports in the upcoming weeks could soothe investor nerves, but any negative comments from company executives about future profits could have the opposite effect.

The benchmark S&P 500 index slipped 30 points, or 1.1 percent, to 2,754 after it fell 3.3 percent Wednesday. The Nasdaq composite slipped 35 points, or 0.5 percent, to 7,386. On Wednesday it suffered its biggest loss in two years. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks fell 10 points, or 0.6 percent, to 1,565.

Stocks in Asia and Europe took even steeper losses. France's CAC 40 and the British FTSE 100 both dropped 1.9 percent and the DAX in Germany lost 1.5 percent. Tokyo's Nikkei 225 gave up 3.9 percent and Hong Kong's Hang Seng index shed 3.5 percent. The Kospi in South Korea fell 4.4 percent.

"People are trying to get a sense of 'where should my money actually be right now?'" said JJ Kinahan, chief market strategist for TD Ameritrade. Kinahan said investors don't know what to do because stock prices are skidding, but bond prices have also dropped sharply, which limits the appeal of bonds as an investment.

The S&P 500 is down 5.4 percent during its losing streak, which is its longest since a nine-day skid shortly before the 2016 presidential election. It has climbed 29 percent since Donald Trump was elected.

Bond prices rose as the recent surge in yields attracted the attention of some investors. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 3.15 percent from 3.22 percent late Wednesday. That's still sharply higher than it was a week ago, and earlier this week the yield on the 10-year note reached its highest level since mid-2011.

The drop in yields hurt banks, and JPMorgan Chase fell 2 percent to $109.24 while Bank of America sank 1.7 percent to $28.75. JPMorgan Chase and several other banks will report their third-quarter results Friday morning.

Kinahan said investors want to know if Corporate America is worried about the Trump administration's tariffs on Chinese imports and if it sees signs of slower economic growth.

In health care, CVS sank 6 percent to $74.22 and Aetna sagged 1.4 percent to $200.56 after the New York Post said New York state regulators have concerns about CVS' purchase of the health insurer. The Justice Department approved the $69 billion deal on Wednesday.

Technology and internet focused companies were mixed. Microsoft added 0.6 percent to $106.83 and Alphabet, Google's parent company, gained 0.8 percent to $1,101.06. Online retailer Amazon fell another 1.5 percent to $1,728.87.

They've fallen sharply out of favor recently. Amazon and Alphabet, respectively the second- and fourth-most valuable U.S. companies, are in what's known as a "correction," a drop of more than 10 percent from a recent peak. Facebook, which ranks sixth, has tumbled 30 percent since late July, and Netflix has fallen 22 percent, meeting the threshold for a "bear market." The Nasdaq composite has fallen 8.9 percent since it set a record high in late August.

High-dividend companies like utilities and household goods makers fell. They have held up better than the rest of the market during the recent skid.

U.S. crude dropped 2.1 percent to $71.64 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the international standard, dropped 2.2 percent to $81.23 a barrel in London. The price of gold jumped 2.9 percent to $1,227.60 an ounce.

On Thursday, President Trump renewed his criticism of the Federal Reserve, blaming the recent downturn in the stock market on the Fed's rate policy.

"We have interest rates going up at a clip that's much faster than certainly a lot of people, including myself, would have anticipated. I think the Fed is out of control," the president said to reporters in the Oval Office.

Trump said he had no intention of firing Jerome Powell, who he appointed as Fed chairman in February.

In other metals trading, silver rose 2 percent to $14.61 an ounce and copper added 0.8 percent to $2.80 a pound.

The dollar fell to 112.33 yen from 112.59 yen, and the euro rose to $1.1577 from $1.1525.

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