Major indices finished mixed following concerns over China’s economy and the Eurozone. The Dow Jones managed to chalk up small profits. However, the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq finished in the red. Among the top ten S&P 500 industry groups, the Health Care sector was the biggest gainer, while industrial stocks were the major losers.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) edged up 0.02% to close the day at 14,450.06. The S&P 500 lost 0.2% to finish yesterday’s trading session at 1,552.48. The tech-laden Nasdaq Composite Index decreased 0.3% to end at 3,242.32. The fear-gauge CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) gained 6.1% to settle at 12.27. Consolidated volumes on the New York Stock Exchange, American Stock Exchange and Nasdaq were roughly 5.82 billion shares, well below the daily average of 6.48 billion shares. Declining stocks outnumbered the advancers. For the 40% that advanced, 56% declined.
Benchmarks oscillated between small gains and losses as investor sentiment was dampened by worries over China’s economy and Eurozone’s crisis. The Dow and the S&P 500 have gained 10.3% and 8.9%, respectively this year. The S&P 500 finished in the red after increasing over seven straight sessions, just shy of breaking its all-time high. Till now the rally has been driven by strong corporate earnings, the economy’s resurgence and the Federal Reserve’s support towards economic stimulus. In light of recent encouraging economic numbers, retail sales data, due for release on Wednesday, will decide the investor mood. The consensus estimate for growth in February retail sales is 0.5%.
On the international front, worries over the Eurozone crisis dampened investor sentiment. According to a report published by Standard & Poor’s, the credit condition is improving this year because of the leveraged buyout which took place during 2006-2008. However, the default rate of the European speculative grade stays high for 2013. According to the report, in 2012, the number of defaults in the EU-30 surged 6.3% versus 4.6% in 2011. These developments took place after Fitch downgraded Italy to a BBB- rating on Friday.
Meanwhile, skepticism over China’s economy lurked around the Street. Following weak retail sales and industrial production data, high inflation for February also dampened investor sentiment. Inflation for February was 3.2% higher than the expectations. Meanwhile, new loans in China fell to 620 billion Yuan in February from 1.1 trillion Yuan in January.
On the earnings front, shares of Costco Wholesale Corporation (NASDAQ:COST) gained 1.3% after it posted strong fiscal second quarter results. Net income of the bulk retailer increased 39% while net sales rose 8%. An increase in gasoline prices and a strong currency position affected the financials of the company. Shares of Diamond Foods, Inc. (NASDAQ:DMND) plunged almost 9.7% after it reported sales below the Street’s expectations. The company also issued guidance which was below the Street’s estimates.
The health care sector was the major gainers among the top ten S&P 500 industry groups. The Health Care SPDR (XLV) gained 0.5%. Stocks such as Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ), Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE:MRK), Mylan Inc. (NASDAQ:MYL), Stryker Corporation (NYSE:SYK) and Amgen, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMGN) increased 0.2%, 3.2%, 0.6%, 0.9% and 0.3%, respectively.
Industrial stocks were the biggest losers among the top ten S&P 500 industry groups. The Industrials SPDR (XLI) lost 0.6%. Stocks such as General Electric Company (NYSE:GE), 3M Co (NYSE:MMM), Union Pacific Corporation (NYSE:UNP), Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE:CAT) and United Parcel Service, Inc. (NYSE:UPS) lost 0.9%, 0.6%, 0.5%, 1.6% and 0.2%, respectively.