Dow drops nearly 250 points as worries about big tech earnings weigh on stocks

U.S. stocks retreated Tuesday after Wal-Mart cut its profit guidance, while anxieties about earnings reports from American tech behemoths like Alphabet Inc. and Meta Platforms Inc. helped to undermine the broader market.

What’s happening
  • The Dow Jones Industrial Average
    fell 247 points, or 0.8%, to 31,747

  • The S&P 500
    was down 51 points, or 1.3%, at 3,916.

  • The Nasdaq Composite
    shed 233 points, or 2%, to trade at 11,549.

On Monday, the Dow rose 91 points, or 0.3%, while the S&P 500 ticked up 0.1% and the Nasdaq Composite lost 0.4%.

What’s driving markets

late Monday cut its profit outlook, saying inflation on food has caused it to conduct more markdowns in apparel. Its shares fell 8.6% to lead Dow decliners Tuesday, while other retail stocks also sunk. The SPDR S&P Retail ETF
fell 4%.

The retailing behemoth’s insight into how inflation is constraining consumption rattled markets by offering more cold, hard evidence that the engine of the U.S. economy — that is, consumer spending — is being constrained by inflation.

“You have this anecdotal data and this view that things are slowing, but until it hits you in the face, then it becomes very clear, and then you have to reassess. I think we’re in ‘reassess’ mode right now,” said Eric Merlis, co-head of global markets at Citizens.

Read: What you need to know about the Fed, earnings and GDP ahead of a busy week for markets

As U.S. stocks fell to lows of the session in afternoon trading, analysts blamed jitters ahead of earnings reports due from some of the biggest American tech companies, many of which are reporting either on Tuesday, or later in the week.

Investors are awaiting a flurry of reports, including tech titans Alphabet Inc.
and another Dow component, Microsoft Corp.
which will report after the close on Tuesday.

Later in the week, investors will hear from other megacap tech names including Meta Platforms Inc.
and Inc.
among many others during the busiest week of the quarter for earnings reports from S&P 500 members.

Already, anxieties around these reports appeared to be contributing to Tuesday’s losses, Merlis said.

“There’s concern advertising spending will be much weaker,” he added, in reference to digital advertising heavyweights Alphabet and Meta.

Meta shares were down more than 4% Tuesday, while Amazon was off more than 5%. The weakness in megacap tech Tuesday helped drive the Nasdaq to underperform the S&P 500 and the Dow.

Consumer discretionary shares — an S&P 500 sector that’s dominated by Amazon and Tesla Inc.
— was the worst performer among the S&P 500’s 11 sectors, while defensive stocks like health-care and utilities were the only S&P 500 sectors in the green, according to FactSet data. Tesla shares were down nearly 4%.

Adding to the gloom over the outlook, the International Monetary Fund warned Tuesday that the global economy is facing the possibility of a severe downturn that would rank in the bottom 10% of outcomes since 1970.

In an update to its closely-followed World Economic Outlook report, the IMF trimmed its baseline forecast for global economic growth to 3.2% in 2022, 0.4 percentage point lower than in the April report (where it also cut its guidance). In 2023, the IMF projected global output at just 2.9%.

For the U.S., the IMF is projecting 2.3% growth this year, down 1.4 percentage points from the April forecast. For 2023, the IMF is now projecting a slim 1% growth rate, down 1.3 percentage points from April.

Read: Analysts on Walmart’s profit warning: Consumers are buckling under inflation pressure and draining their COVID reserves

See: Big Tech earnings are about to determine the direction of the market

Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve started its two-day interest-rate-setting meeting Tuesday, which is expected to conclude Wednesday with a 75 basis point rate increase as the central bank continues to tighten aggressively in its effort to curb inflation.

In U.S. economic data Tuesday, the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller 20-city index decelerated to a 20.5% year-over-year gain in May down from 21.2% in the previous month. A separate report from the Federal Housing Finance Agency showed a 1.4% monthly gain. And over the last year, the FHFA index was up 18.3%

The Conference Board said its index of consumer confidence fell to 95.7 in July from a revised 98.4 in the previous month.

U.S. new home sales plunged 8.1% to a seasonally-adjusted rate of 590,000 in June, from a revised 642,000 a month earlier, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday.

But the highlights of the economic data calendar arrive later in the week, when investors will receive the first reading on second-quarter GDP. According to the Atlanta Fed’s GDPNow forecasting tool, the U.S. economy likely contracted for a second consecutive quarter between the beginning of April and the end of June. The GDP report lands Thursday, then an update from the Fed’s preferred inflation measure , the personal consumption expenditure index, is due out Friday morning.

Companies in focus
Other assets
  • The yield on the 10-year Treasury note
    fell 7 basis points to 2.74%. Yields and debt prices move opposite each other. The spread between the yield on the 3-month Treasury bill and the 10-year note slumped to 133 basis points, its narrowest level since last August.

  • The ICE U.S. Dollar Index
    a measure of the currency against a basket of six major rivals, was up 0.6%.

  • The U.S. oil benchmark
    slumped 0.9% to trade near $95.85 a barrel, while gold futures
    were off 0.1% near $1,716 an ounce.

  • The Stoxx Europe 600
    and London’s FTSE 100
    eked out extremely modest losses for the day.

  • The Shanghai Composite
    ended 0.8% lower, while the Hang Seng Index
    jumped 1.7% in Hong Kong and Japan’s Nikkei 225
    edged down 0.2%.

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