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Mid-Day Update: Stocks Slide After Retail Sales, Producer Price Data Trails Forecasts

U.S. stocks are lower, with the Dow Jones Industrials and the S&P 500 indices both backing away from record highs after retail sales and PPI data missed analyst forecasts. Energy and material stocks are taking the hardest hits, with both groups tumbling nearly 2% each as the price of oil, gold and other metals slide in commodities trade. Financial stocks also are sharply lower after Q1 earnings results from JPMorgan Chase & Co and Well Fargo & Co. failed to impress investors despite improved profits at both banks. Comsumer stables and utility stocks - traditionally seen as defensive havens - are the lone sectors to be trading higher at mid-day.

Retail sales in March came in below expectation, falling 0.4% last month with weakness observed in most categories. The unexpected decline follows a 1.0% rise in February and marks the sharpest decline since last June, sparking new concerns that higher taxes and a tough job market are taking a bite out of consumer spending.

The Commerce Department today also reported a 0.6% drop in producer prices, the biggest one-month drop in wholesale prices since last May. Excluding food and energy, core PPI rose 0.2% for the third-straight month. Economists had been expecting a 0.3% monthly fall in headline PPI and a 0.2% gain in core producer prices, according to MarketWatch.

JPMorgan Chase ( JPM ) and Wells Fargo ( WFC ) are helping keep a lid on the financial stocks today despite improved quarterly profits at both banks. At last look, JPM shares are down 0.3% while WFC is off 1,7%.

JPM reported Q1 earnings of $1.59 per share, up from $1.19 per share last year and ahead of the analyst consensus of $1.38 per share on Capital IQ. But revenue declined 3.7% compared to year-ago levels to $25.8 bln, in-line with expectations, while most of its major businesses turned in tepid performance.

WFC reported a higher-than-expected 23% in Q1 profit, with per-share earnings of $0.92 beating analyst estimates by $0.03 per share. Its mortgage business, however, showed further signs of slowing and net interest margins continued to shrink, falling short of analyst expectations. Revenue also fell 1.7% to $21.26 billion, trailing forecasts by around $140 mln.

Commodities are broadly lower today. Crude oil for May delivery is down 2.90, or over 3%, at $90.61 per barrel although May natural gas is one of the few gainers today, rising 7 cents to $4.21 per 1 million BTU. Gold continues its slide, with the April contract tumbling $66.30, or 4.2%, to $,498.00 - its lowest price for the front-month contract since November 2011. May silver is down $1.27, or 4.6%, at $26.42 per ounce while May copper is off 9 cents at $3.34 per pound.

Among energy ETFs , the US Oil Fund is down 87 cents to $32.59 and the US Natural Gas Fund is up 36 cents to $23.00. Among precious-metal funds, the Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF is down $1.55 to $32.63 and the SPDR Gold Shares ETF is down $5.54 to $145.51. The iShares Silver Trust is down $1.22 to $25.48.

Here's where the U.S. markets stood at mid-day:

NYSE Composite Index down 78.02 (-0.84%) to 9,156.00

Dow Jones Industrial Average down 34.86 (-0.23%) to 14,830.28

S&P 500 down 8.83 (-0.55%) to 1,584.54

Nasdaq Composite Index down 17.00 (-0.52%) to 3,283.16

GLOBAL SENTIMENT

Nikkei 225 Index down 0.47%

Hang Seng Index down 0.06%

Shanghai China Composite Index down 0.58%

FTSE 100 Index down 0.49%

NYSE SECTOR INDICES

NYSE Energy Sector Index down 1.67%

NYSE Financial Sector Index down 0.93%

NYSE Healthcare Sector Index down 0.36%

UPSIDE MOVERS

(+) CLNT, (+38%, off day highs) Adjusted earnings rise 238.5% over year-ago comparisons to $0.98 per share. Quarterly revenue climbs 28.3% to $17.6 mln.

(+) RALY, (+29.61%, hit new year highs) Prices initial public offering of 6 mln shares of its common stock at $14 apiece, above its expected range of $11 to $13 a share.

(+) ASH, (+6.6%, went close to year highs) Jana Partners takes 7.4% stake in the chemicals company, paying $390.5 mln to acquire 5.8 mln shares, according to regulatory filings.

DOWNSIDE MOVERS

(-) CRMB, (-33.3%, near year lows) Selling up to $10 million of its senior unsecured convertible promissory notes to accredited investors. Also, reports 2% decline in Q4 net sales to $10.8 mln, trailing analyst estimates by $1.8 mln.

(-) INFY, (-20.5%) Q4 revenue rises 9.4% to $1.94 bln but trails analyst forecasts by about $50 mln. Says FY14 revenue should rise 6% to 10%, also lagging the analyst view looking for 11% growth.

(-) NG, (-8.9%, hit new 52 week lows) Reports $0.05 per share Q1 net loss, reversing $0.07 per share profit in year-ago quarter.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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