U.S. stocks fell, sending the Dow Jones Industrial Average toward its biggest loss since June, amid disappointing results at companies from 3M Co. to DuPont Co. and as commodities erased their gain for the year.
3M, the maker of products ranging from Scotch tapes to dental braces, and DuPont, the most valuable U.S. chemical maker, slumped at least 3.4 percent. Xerox Corp., the provider of printers and business services, sank 5.4 percent after saying third-quarter profit fell 12 percent. Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. and Halliburton Co. slid more than 3 percent as commodities retreated amid concern about a global slowdown.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index decreased 1.1 percent to 1,417.50 at 3:09 p.m. New York time, the lowest level on a closing basis since Sept. 5. The Dow slumped 212.99 points, or 1.6 percent, to 13,132.90. Trading in S&P 500 companies was 12 percent above the 30-day average at this time of day.
“That’s the reality of the situation that investors are facing,” said Bruce Bittles, chief investment strategist at Milwaukee-based RW Baird & Co., which oversees $85 billion. He spoke in a phone interview. “There’s not much growth in the economy. There’s lack of demand. How can revenues grow?”
Thirty-three companies in the S&P 500 are releasing results today. Third-quarter sales missed forecasts at 60 percent of companies, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Earnings at about 70 percent of the index’s companies beat analysts’ estimates, the data showed.
Concern about a worsening of the earnings picture has sent the S&P 500 down 3.3 percent from this year’s high on Sept. 14. The decline has extended its October loss to 1.6 percent after the index capped four straight months of gains. The benchmark measure is still up 13 percent in 2012 on speculation central bankers will keep economies expanding.
All 10 groups in the S&P 500 retreated today as commodity and financial shares had the biggest losses. The Morgan Stanley Cyclical Index of companies most-tied to economic growth declined 0.9 percent.
“The earnings season has not gone as well as many would like,” said Tom Wirth, who helps manage $1.6 billion as senior investment officer for Chemung Canal Trust Co., in Elmira, New York. “In general, sales have been disappointing. There’s heightened concern about global growth.”
3M dropped 3.4 percent to $89.35. The St. Paul, Minnesota- based company, which makes a majority of revenue in Europe and Asia, cut the profit target and the top end of its goal for sales from existing businesses to reflect what it called “current economic realities.”