U.S. stocks finished lower on Thursday, with disappointing earnings report from Tesla Inc. weighing on technology stocks, while a slump in oil prices dragged down shares in the energy sector. The debt ceiling debacle in Washington also continued to worry investors.
How stocks traded
- The S&P 500 fell 24.73 points, or 0.6%, to end at 4,129.79, its biggest daily percentage drop since March 22, according to Dow Jones Market Data.
- The Dow Jones Industrial Average shed 110.39 points, or 0.3%, to finish at 33,786.62, posting a third straight session of declines.
- The Nasdaq Composite slid 97.67 points, or 0.8%, ending at 12,059.56.
On Wednesday, the Dow fell 80 points, or 0.2%, while the S&P 500 shed less than 0.1% and the Nasdaq Composite ended fractionally higher.
U.S. stocks finished lower on Thursday, after extending losses in the final hour of trade as investors weighed mixed corporate earnings and growing concerns over the government’s debt-ceiling stalemate.
Sentiment was hit by a sharp slide in shares of Tesla Inc. after CEO Elon Musk suggested he was prepared to boost market share at the expense of profit margins as the company reported its results for the quarter ended in March.
Market strategists said the recent earnings reports have put a spotlight on the waning ability of the U.S. consumer to continue propping up the economy that is teetering on a cliff’s edge.
“Tesla is operating in a highly competitive market, and its stock remains highly overvalued,” said David Trainer, chief executive officer of New Constructs, an investment research firm in Nashville. “The company is not immune to incumbents introducing EVs in masse or consumers less willing to spend on new vehicles in a slowing economy.”
Tesla’s troubles are just the latest example of how a lackluster start of earnings season has helped to dampen some of investors’ enthusiasm for U.S. stocks.
“The last few days household-name companies have disappointed, be it Tesla, Netflix and Goldman Sachs,” said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at B. Riley Wealth, during a phone interview with MarketWatch.
“Tesla and Netflix’s results are signposts for what’s to come, which is a cyclical decline in discretionary spending as consumers feel the squeeze. Tesla has been cutting prices for its cars and Netflix added fewer than expected subscribers,” Schein said.
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Growing concerns over the U.S. debt-ceiling stalemate in Washington also took center stage on Thursday, as investors piled into the 1-month Treasury bill sending its rate briefly plummeting by more than half of a percentage point.
The 1-month T-bill rate was spotted around 3.359%, after slumping to the lowest level since mid-October during New York afternoon trading, according to Tradeweb.
“The fact that the 1-month T-bill is so far below the fed-funds rate tells me that those are money-market funds, which flowed out of the banking system, that need to be placed somewhere short-term and liquid. So, the short-term Treasurys fill that need and it’s flooded,” said Steve Sosnick, chief strategist at Interactive Brokers.
“Why is it so extreme? I think there’s a real aversion to buying the bills that expire in three to four months. And that, to me, is reflective of the debt ceiling worries,” Sosnick told MarketWatch in a phone interview.
See: Growing worries over U.S. debt ceiling send 1-month T-bill yield tumbling
U.S. equity benchmarks have moved little of late as traders wait to see if the S&P 500 can burst out of its five-month trading channel between 3,800 to 4,200.
Concerns, however, have been growing about the potential for tighter central bank policy to crimp earnings, hurt consumers and drag down economic growth.
On Thursday, investors received weekly jobless-claim data which showed applications for unemployment benefits rose by more than expected to 245,000. Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Fed said Thursday its gauge of regional business activity slumped to negative 31.3 in April from negative 23.2 in the prior month.
March existing home sales offered more dismal news about the U.S. housing market as sales fell by nearly 1% last month, the largest year-over-year decline in a decade. A gauge of leading economic indicators signaled a recession would likely arrive in the U.S. by mid-year.
Cleveland Federal Reserve President Loretta Mester said on Thursday that another interest-rate hike might be needed to quell inflation, while noting that she has seen progress on easing inflation, but it “remains too high.”
Traders were pricing in an 86% probability that the Fed will raise interest rates by another 25 basis points to a range of 5% to 5.25% on May 3, according to the CME FedWatch tool. However, they also see a possibility that the Fed will be cutting interest rates by the end of 2023.
“It’s hard for the market to go up when there’s no real good catalysts. Today, we really haven’t had any good catalysts to make the market rally and then various Fed speakers came out and didn’t say anything that’s particularly market friendly,” Sosnick said.
Another batch of companies presented earnings on Thursday including AT&T Inc. Comerica Inc. Fifth Third Bancorp Union Pacific Corp. Philip Morris International Inc. and American Airlines Group Inc. The regional banks shares retreated as lost deposits weighed on corporate earnings.
Companies in focus
- AT&T Inc. stock ended 10.4% lower on Thursday after the telecommunications giant reported first-quarter beat profit expectations but fell short on free cash flow.
- The S&P 500 Energy Sector was the second worst performer behind the consumer discretionary category in the large-cap index on Thursday, as oil prices dropped 2.4%. Shares of APA Corporation and ConocoPhillips fell 2.2% and 1.4%, respectively.
- Shares of American Express Company declined 1% despite its first-quarter earnings showing the firm continued to benefit from strong spending growth with particular momentum in the travel and entertainment categories.
- Shares of Las Vegas Sands Corp. gained 3.7% after the company reported quarterly revenue that surpassed Wall Street estimates. The Las Vegas-based casino operator said its traffic is rebounding in Singapore and Macao, while expecting further improvement in travel and tourism spending from China and Hong Kong as airline and ferry capacity rebounds.
—Jamie Chisholm contributed to this article.