U.S. stocks decline to six-week low, led by UnitedHealth, EBay

U.S. stocks fell, sending the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index to a six-week low, as earnings from UnitedHealth Group Inc. to EBay Inc. disappointed investors.

UnitedHealth slumped 3.7%, the most in three months. EBay slid 5.6% after reporting revenue that missed some estimates. Morgan Stanley lost 4.6% after posting the biggest drop in trading revenue among the largest U.S. banks. Verizon Communications Inc. gained 3.1% as growth in wireless customers helped profit beat estimates, while PepsiCo Inc. added 2.8% after snack sales increased.

The S&P 500 fell 0.6% to 1,543.21 at 3:33 p.m. in New York, the lowest level since March 6. The Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 94.97 points, or 0.7% to 14,523.62. The Nasdaq Composite Index dropped 1.5% for the biggest two-day slump in five months. Trading in S&P 500 stocks was 19% higher than the 30-day average at this time of day.

“We’ve come to a period of negative economic surprises,” Mark Luschini, the chief investment strategist at Janey Montgomery Scott LLC, which manages $55 billion, said in a phone interview. “Whether it’s a pullback or a corrective phase, I think it’ll just be a pause because I don’t think the fundamental underpinnings are deteriorating more.”

Stocks kept losses after a measure of manufacturing in the Philadelphia region expanded at a slower pace and the index of U.S. leading indicators unexpectedly declined for the first time in seven months. The S&P 500 fell below its 50-day moving average for the first time this year. That level, currently at around 1543, is watched by some analysts to gauge the trend of the market.

Earnings Season

The S&P 500 has dropped 3.1% since reaching an all- time high of 1,593.37 on April 11, as China’s economic growth unexpectedly slowed, commodities tumbled and data on U.S. employment and retail sales missed forecasts.

Almost 30 companies in the S&P 500 are scheduled to post results today. Of the 82 that have reported since the season began, 74% have beaten analysts’ estimates for profit and 49% have exceeded sales forecasts, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Analysts project first-quarter results dropped 1.4%, the first contraction since 2009.

Seven out of the 10 main S&P 500 industries declined today as technology, health-care and consumer-discretionary companies fell the most, sinking at least 1.4%.

The Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index, or VIX, increased 7.4% to 17.73. The gauge briefly erased losses for the year after climbing as much as 10%. The VIX, which moves in the opposite direction to the S&P 500 about 80% of the time, reached a six-year low in March and has since risen 60%.

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