A negative sales forecast from home builder Toll Brothers on Tuesday cast doubt on the health of the housing market and sent stocks falling...
NEW YORK — A negative sales forecast from home builder Toll Brothers on Tuesday cast doubt on the health of the housing market and sent stocks falling after four sessions of gains.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 46.51 to 10,539.72. The Dow had gained 179.46 over the previous four sessions.
Microsoft, one of the 30 Dow stocks, added 4 cents to close at $27.04. Boeing, also a Dow stock, fell 43 cents to $65.01.
Broader stock indicators also fell. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index dropped 4.22 to 1,218.59, and the Nasdaq composite index lost 6.17 to 2,172.07.
A softening in the real-estate market, which had helped fuel economic growth for more than two years, could mean weaker consumer spending and a slowdown in the economy. Toll Brothers’ lower sales projections fed those fears, while disappointing forecasts from auto-parts maker Visteon dragged down the auto sector as well.
Despite Wall Street’s two-week upswing, the news illustrated the problems that still face the economy and the stock market. Yet even amid the market’s lingering worries, investors’ expectations of a year-end rally kept the day’s losses limited.
“With the Dow and Nasdaq having moved up the way they have, it’s only normal to see a bit of a pullback from time to time,” said Michael Sheldon, chief market strategist at Spencer Clarke.
“But you still have a lot of seasonal factors to come into play. November through January has historically been great for stocks, and I think it’ll be almost a self-fulfilling prophecy as investors start trickling back into the market.”
Oil prices moved higher, with a barrel of light crude settling at $59.71, up 24 cents, on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Yet while oil prices remain below $60 per barrel, energy prices remain near historic highs and will continue to pressure consumers.
Toll Brothers said softening demand and moderating house prices would result in fewer new-home sales in 2006 and would likely cut into full-year profits. The company also blamed a tougher regulatory environment and waning consumer confidence for the lower projections.
Investors nervous about the health of the housing market punished Toll shares, sending them plummeting $5.50, or 14 percent, to $33.91.
“That shouldn’t have been a surprise to anyone, because all the background was in place for that to happen what with rising interest rates and consumer spending where it’s at,” said Hans Olsen, managing director and chief investment officer at Bingham Legg Advisers. “We may be seeing the beginning of a real slowdown in the housing market. That’s a big concern hanging out there.”
Other homebuilders suffered along with Toll. Lennar lost $3.05 to $55.30, KB Home slid $3.71 to $63.74 and Meritage Homes fell $7.38 to $58.27.
Visteon fell $1.26, or 14 percent, to $7.72 after narrowing its quarterly loss from a year ago.
The struggling auto-parts maker said, however, it does not expect to return to profitability in the fourth quarter even after a sweeping restructuring with the aid of automaker Ford. Ford fell 8 cents to $8.26.