Skip to main content
Advertising

Originally published May 15, 2014 at 7:00 AM | Page modified May 16, 2014 at 12:13 AM

  • Share:
             
  • Comments (0)
  • Print

Dow dips to worst day in 5 weeks; bond prices jump

Investors retreated from stocks Thursday, leading the Dow Jones industrial average to its worst day in five weeks, after disappointing earnings from Wal-Mart and mixed news about the global economy.


AP Markets Writer

advertising

NEW YORK —

Investors retreated from stocks Thursday, leading the Dow Jones industrial average to its worst day in five weeks, after disappointing earnings from Wal-Mart and mixed news about the global economy.

Financial markets reflected broader investor jitters: government bonds rose, small-company stocks continued to plunge, and safe, slower-growth industries fared the best.

The latest economic data from the United States was mixed: Factory output fell. But fewer people sought unemployment benefits, evidence that hat solid hiring should continue. The news was more disappointing in Europe, where the economy of the 18 countries that share the euro saw output rise just 0.2 percent in the first quarter.

"People are just a little bit nervous about the entire global economic environment at the moment," said Ryan Larson, head of U.S. equities at the Royal Bank of Canada.

The Dow lost 167.16 points, or 1 percent, to 16,446.81. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 17.68 points, or 0.9 percent, to 1,870.85 and the Nasdaq composite fell 31.33 points, or 0.8 percent, to 4,069.29.

The Dow was dragged down by Wal-Mart, which fell $1.91, or 2.4 percent, to $76.83. The company reported lower earnings for its most recent quarter and warned that the current one was not expected to be much better.

The company, like many other retailers, blamed harsh winter weather. Department store operator Kohl's fell after announcing a drop in first-quarter earnings. Kohl's ended down $1.82, or 3.4 percent, to $52.21.

One bright spot was Cisco Systems. The telecommunications equipment maker jumped $1.37, or 6 percent, to $24.18. It was one of only two stocks in the Dow 30 to rise. Cisco reported earnings that were better than expected.

The broader stock sell-off comes two days after the Dow and S&P 500 hit record highs.

But the bigger story of what happened on Wall Street was in the bond market.

Bonds had their best day since early February, when measured by the Barclays U.S. Aggregate bond index, a broad gauge of the entire market, from Treasurys to corporate debt.

The yield on the U.S. 10-year note hit its lowest level in 10 months, dropping to 2.49 percent. At the beginning of the week, the 10-year had a yield of 2.66 percent. That is an extraordinary move for bond yields.

Typically, such a movement in the bond market would signal that there was something wrong with the U.S. economy. But Thursday's economic news was mixed at worst. Factory production declined in April. But the number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell to a seven-year low last week.

To add to the mystery, U.S. consumer prices rose at their fastest pace in nearly a year in April, the Labor Department said Thursday. The consumer price index, an often-quoted barometer of inflation in the U.S., rose by 0.3 percent last month due to higher food and gas prices. Inflation is on pace to rise 2 percent this year. While not alarming, it is noticeably higher than a year ago.

In a normal environment, investors don't buy bonds at 2.5 percent interest if inflation is running at 2 percent. It's just not worth it.

"It's really confusing, to be honest," said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at BMO Private Bank in Chicago, who oversees $66 billion in assets. "The bond market thinks there's a risk out there that the stock market isn't seeing."

One explanation is that foreign buyers raced into the U.S. Treasury market looking for safety, causing a distorted move in prices, traders said. Despite their fall, yields of U.S. government bonds are higher than those of some developed economies.

"This flight to quality is overwhelming bond investors," said Tom di Galoma, a fixed-income trader at ED&F Man Capital.

Telecommunications stocks, a popular safety play, did rise Thursday, but barely. AT&T rose 13 cents, or 0.4 percent, to $36.52 while Verizon Communications fell 5 cents, or 0.1 percent, to $47.96.

Once again, investors sold riskier stocks in the technology and biotechnology industries. Facebook, Netflix and Biogen, all companies who have seen large waves of selling in the last several weeks, fell 2 percent or more.

The Russell 2000 index, made up of mostly small, riskier companies, fell 0.7 percent Thursday. The index is down 9.3 percent from its March 4 high, and at one point Thursday, dipped into what is known on Wall Street as a correction. That is when a stock or index falls 10 percent or more from a recent peak.



Free 4-week trial, then $99 a year for unlimited seattletimes.com access. Try it now!

News where, when and how you want it

Email Icon

The Seattle Times wins top award for multimedia storytelling

The Seattle Times wins top award for multimedia storytelling

Our Sea Change series received a prestigious 2015 DuPont-Columbia award for showcasing the power of storytelling on the Web. Experience the report here.

Advertising

Advertising


Advertising
The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►
The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription upgrade.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. For unlimited seattletimes.com access, please upgrade your digital subscription.

Call customer service at 1.800.542.0820 for assistance with your upgrade or questions about your subscriber status.

The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. Subscribe now for unlimited access!

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Activate Subscriber Account ►