Why the Dow keeps sinking

The gloom-and-doom on Wall Street has wiped out the stock market's gains for the year.The Dow dropped...

Posted: Nov 21, 2018 9:19 AM
Updated: Nov 21, 2018 9:19 AM

The gloom-and-doom on Wall Street has wiped out the stock market's gains for the year.

The Dow dropped 552 points, or 2.2%, on Tuesday. Plunging retailers like Target (TGT) and Kohl's (KSS) led the S&P 500 1.8% lower.

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Tech stocks once again got hit hard, with the Nasdaq sinking 1.7%. Apple retreated another 5% after Goldman Sachs dimmed its price target on the iPhone maker for the second time in a week.

All three major indexes have given up their gains on the year. The Dow is nearly 2,500 points off its peak.

"The highways will be crowded this evening as the Thanksgiving rush will begin in earnest, but this morning investors are rushing for the exits," Paul Hickey, co-founder of Bespoke Investment Group, wrote to clients on Tuesday.

The Dow lost nearly 400 points on Monday as well. This week's sell-off marks a continuation of a glum two months on Wall Street. The S&P 500 is down nearly 10% from its record high, flirting with official correction territory.

The losses have been sparked by a flurry of concerns about everything from higher interest rates and crashing oil prices to the US-China trade war. But the overarching theme is that investors are bracing for the end of the fantastic economic and profit growth that marked the past year. Analysts expect a deceleration in 2019 driven by tariffs, the fading impact of the tax cuts and higher borrowing costs caused by the Federal Reserve.

"Put simply, stocks have already started to price in the risk of an economic slowdown," Goldman Sachs chief US equity strategist David Kostin wrote to clients on Tuesday.

President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that the US economy is "doing great," but he urged the Federal Reserve to keep interest rates low.

"I think we have much more of a Fed problem than we do with anyone else," Trump told reporters.

Investors continue to flee from the tech darlings that once carried the market higher. Worries about lackluster demand for the latest iPhones have weighed heavily on Apple (AAPL). Other momentum stocks like Netflix (NFLX) and Amazon (AMZN) closed lower again. Google owner Alphabet (GOOGL) closed on Monday in its first bear market since 2011.

All told, the collective market value of Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Alphabet, Apple and Microsoft has declined by more than $1.1 trillion.

Morgan Stanley warned on Monday that the US stock market is already in a bear market. The firm noted that more than 40% of the S&P 500 is down 20% from recent highs.

"The market is speaking loudly that bad news is coming," Morgan Stanley equity strategist Michael Wilson wrote to clients.

Slowdown fears were front-and-center in the retail sector. Disappointing results sent Target and Kohl's more than 9% lower on Tuesday. TJX Companies (TJX) and Ross Stores also retreated. Home improvement retailer Lowe's (LOW) lost 6% after posting results. The home improvement retailer has declined nine straight days.

Energy stocks were among the biggest losers. ExxonMobil (XOM), Chevron (CVX) and Hess (HES) all lost ground after US oil prices plummeted 7% to a 13-month low of $53.43 a barrel. Fears of a supply glut and weaker demand have knocked crude into a bear market. It's now down 30% from the recent high on October 3.

But some believe the market mayhem is overdone.

"I don't think we're headed for a recession," David Kelly, chief global strategist at JPMorgan told CNN Business. "The slowdown in the economy and the trouble in the market is going to stay the Fed's hand."

Kelly said he thinks the Trump administration will also "pull back" from the US-China trade war if it sees that the risk is a potential recession.

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