U.S. Stocks Post Biggest Drop in Two Weeks as Business Investment Spells Trouble for the Economy

The U.S. stock market declined on Thursday, snapping a three-day winning streak and heading for its worst loss in two weeks after the latest report on durable goods revealed a sharp slowdown in business investment. Crypto markets corrected lower as trade volumes continued to unwind from their yearly peak.

Stocks Retreat

All of Wall Street’s benchmark indexes headed for losses, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average falling 103.81 points, or 0.4%, to close at 25,850.63. The broad S&P 500 Index fell 0.4% to 2,774.88, with seven of 11 primary industries reporting losses. The technology-focused Nasdaq Composite Index closed down 0.4% at 7,459.71.

Disappointing quarterly results weighed on the major indexes after Domino’s Pizza Inc. (DPZ) reported earnings and revenue that disappointed investors. Hormel Foods Corporation (HRL) also missed analysts’ expectations.

S&P 500 companies have mostly beaten quarterly earnings estimates, but that could soon change, according to FactSet. The research firm anticipates a sharp downturn in profitability for Q1 2019 based on January EPS estimates. More on that story can be found here.

Economic Data Mostly Positive, with One Big Caveat

U.S. economic indicators were largely positive on Thursday, with one very big caveat: a gauge of business investment fell for the fourth time in five months.

The Commerce Department reported on Thursday that durable goods orders – a proxy for manufacturing demand – rose at a seasonally adjusted 1.2% in December. When removing the volatile transportation category, orders rose at a much slower 0.1% pace. A closer look at the report revealed that new orders for nondefense capital goods, a bellwether for business investment, fell 0.7% in December. Clearly, American businesses are feeling the effects of global economic uncertainty.

Most of the other major releases Thursday were positive. Initial jobless claims fell by 23,000 to a seasonally adjusted 216,000 in the latest week, the Labor Department said.

A measure of U.S. private-sector business known as the Composite purchasing managers’ index (PMI) improved to eight-month highs in February. Markit’s PMI gauge climbed to 55.8 from 54.4 in January. All of the monthly gains were attributed to the services sector, which accounts for the vast majority of economic output.

Cryptocurrencies See Minor Pullback

The major cryptocurrencies posted modest declines on Thursday, as the total market cap fell by around $3 billion. Daily exchange trading has also fallen by roughly $10 billion from its peak on Tuesday. As far as we can tell, the daily turnover printed on Tuesday was the highest in at least ten months.

Crypto Update: Litecoin Leads Pullback in Majors

Litecoin (LTC) led the pivot lower among the majors, falling 4% to $49.12. The LTC price peaked at four-month highs earlier this week.

Bitcoin cash (BCH) posted a drop of 2.9% to $142.72. XRP`s price broke below 32 cents after falling 2.4%. Ethereum (ETH) edged down 1.2% to $145.83.

Losses for Bitcoin (BTC) were capped at 1% during the day. It was last down 0.9% at %3,948.36, according to aggregate data from CoinMarketCap.

Disclaimer: The author owns bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies. He holds investment positions in the coins, but does not engage in short-term or day-trading.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Chief Editor to Hacked.com and Contributor to CCN.com, Sam Bourgi has spent the past nine years focused on economics, markets and cryptocurrencies. His work has been featured in and cited by some of the world's leading newscasts, including Barron's, CBOE and Forbes. Avid crypto watchers and those with a libertarian persuasion can follow him on twitter at @hsbourgi