Wall Street plunged for a second day, with the Dow industrials closing below the 9,000 level, as weak economic and corporate data are triggering...
NEW YORK — Wall Street plunged for a second day, with the Dow industrials closing below the 9,000 level, as weak economic and corporate data are triggering broad fears about the economy.
The pullback today brings the major market indexes’ two-day declines to about 10 percent. The losses have erased more than half of the market’s recent advance. Comments from computer gear maker Cisco Systems warning of slumping demand and retailers reporting weak sales for October have been the latest triggers for selling.
The Dow Jones industrial average closed down 443.48, or 4.9 percent, to 8,695.79, still above its Oct. 10 trading low of 7,882.51.
Broader stock indicators also posted sharp losses. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 47.89, or 5 percent, to 904.88, and the Nasdaq composite index fell 72.94, or 4.3 percent, to 1,608.70.
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Comments from Cisco that it saw a steep drop in orders in October and reports from retailers that consumers are skipping trips to the mall provided fresh evidence of the economy’s struggles. While sales at Wal-Mart benefited from bargain-seekers, some specialty retailers posted huge drops in monthly sales.
Adding to investors’ list of worries, the Labor Department said the number of people continuing to draw unemployment benefits jumped to a 25-year high, increasing by 122,000 to 3.84 million in late October. It marked the highest level since late February 1983, when the economy was being buffeted by a protracted recession.
While new claims for unemployment benefits dipped by 4,000 to a seasonally adjusted level of 481,000 last week, the levels remain elevated. The findings added to the market’s unease ahead of Friday’s October employment report, a widely watched barometer of the economy’s health.
“I think everybody kind of simultaneously — the consumers and businesses — is tightening belts so that’s triggering a reasonably precipitous slowdown that’s widespread,” said Ed Hyland, global investment specialist at J.P. Morgan’s Private Bank. “This is something that we haven’t really seen, this level of this rapid and significant pullback both in the market and the economy.”
Today’s rout follows a drop of more than 5 percent in the market Wednesday that saw the Dow plunge nearly 500 points as investors fretted that weak readings on employment and downcast profit forecasts and job cuts from financial companies to steelmakers signaled broad economic troubles.
Still, the market’s two-day slide follows an enormous run-up since last week so some pullback was expected, analysts said. Through the six sessions that ended Tuesday, the benchmark Standard & Poor’s 500 index, surged 18.3 percent.
Richard Campagna, chief investment officer at Provident Investment Counsel in Pasadena, Calif., contends the market’s pullback isn’t surprising given the enormity of the recent run-up. He said the weak economic readings shouldn’t come as a surprise given a freeze in credit markets that has disrupted lending and other economic activity since September.
Campagna said the light volume and overall fear among investors is exacerbating the market’s volatility.
“Some people are pushing this market around more than they should be out of fear,” he said. Many everyday investors are sitting on the sidelines, he said. “Everyone has been shellshocked with the moves in the market.”
Declining issues outnumbered advancers by about 5 to 1 on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume came to 1.05 billion shares.
The dollar traded mixed against most other major currencies, while gold prices fell.
Light, sweet crude fell $4.36 to $60.94 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange as fears of a slowing economy led to predictions demand will fall.
The latest round of economic worries largely overshadowed interest rate cuts by central banks in Europe as stocks there tumbled after the moves. The Bank of England slashed its key interest rate by a bold 1.5 percentage points today; the Swiss Central Bank cut its own key rate by a surprising half-point; and the European Central Bank lowered its key rate by a half-point.
Britain’s FTSE 100 fell 5.7 percent, Germany’s DAX index fell 6.8 percent, and France’s CAC-40 fell 6.4 percent. In Asian trading, Japan’s Nikkei index closed down 6.5 percent, and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index fell 7.1 percent.
Cisco’s comments added to investors’ nervousness and weighed on the technology-heavy Nasdaq. The world’s largest maker of computer networking gear said orders declined sharply last month, suggesting to the market that the weak economy and tight credit markets are taking a larger-than-expected toll on many companies around the world. At the close, Cisco was down 2.6 percent.
A range of industries have been bruised by the economy. Japanese automaker Toyota reduced its annual earnings forecast today to less than a third of what it was in the previous fiscal year. Toyota shares tumbled 16.3 percent.
Hyland said the latest economic news is a reminder that while the market might be off its Oct. 10 lows following an array of government moves to revive lending and shore up confidence in the markets, the medicine for the markets will take some time to work.
“I think that we’re in a bottoming process, but the market will tend to have three, four, or five bottoms as it goes through the bear market,” he said.
Even the election, which had been one area of uncertainty, now presents a new set of questions, he said, even though the market largely had expected an Obama win.
“How does an Obama administration deal with it and what are the implications?”
Hyland said he doesn’t attribute much of the selling to hedge funds as many of them have largely already cashed out of some investments to meet shareholder redemptions. Nov. 15 is the cutoff for shareholders to notify fund managers of their intent to cash out investments before year-end. But he said a sudden influx of “sell” orders could always spook hedge funds into dumping more investments.
Bank-to-bank lending rates fell for the 19th straight day, a sign that banks are becoming more willing to lend. The London interbank offered rate, or Libor, for three-month dollar loans dipped to 2.39 percent from 2.51 percent.
The three-month Treasury bill, considered the ultimate safe asset, saw its yield dip further to 0.32 percent from 0.42 percent late Wednesday. In general, a lower yield means higher demand, but it is also affected by the federal funds rate.
The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note fell to 3.70 percent from 3.73 percent late Wednesday.