The major equity indexes were a bit lower on Monday as a decline in the price of Apple’s shares partly offset gains in energy and financial stocks, some of the market’s worst-performing sectors this year.
Energy, the worst-performing S&P 500 sector so far in 2017, and banks, widely underperforming the benchmark year-to-date, attracted attention despite a decline in crude prices and a yield curve that is near its flattest in eight months.
Banks are expected to perform better in a steepening-yield curve environment, in which bonds with longer maturities need higher rates to attract investors.
Monday’s data indicated that the services sector slowed in May on lower new orders. Together with an April fall in orders for manufactured goods and worker productivity unchanged in the first quarter, we could be facing limited economic growth.
Despite the softening economic numbers, traders still bet the Federal Reserve will raise rates at its June 13-14 meeting. Reuters data points to a 93.6-percent chance of a quarter-point hike.
With the 10-year Treasury yield near its lowest point in seven months, the consensus appears to be that there will be an upward spike in rates.
Utilities are expected to underperform as yields rise. The utility sector index fell 0.48 percent.
Energy stocks rose despite a decline in crude prices. Oil prices were lower over concerns that Saudi Arabia is cutting off ties with Qatar over its alleged support of extremist views inside Islam. The result could mean a falling apart of a global deal to reduce oil production.
The S&P 500 energy sector index rose 0.2 percent after falling 4.3 percent over the previous two weeks.
Wall Street is keeping an eye on other political developments coming up including a British election, testimony from former FBI director James Comey regarding the Trump campaign’s possible collusion with Russia, and the French legislative vote.
Apple fell 1.0 percent to $153.93 as the iPhone maker unveiled products and services in its annual developers’ conference.
Alphabet’s A-class shares edged above the $1,000 mark for the first time and were among the largest contributors to the S&P 500 index and the Nasdaq composite.
Bristol-Myers Squibb fell 4.7 percent to $52.36 after an underwhelming presentation at the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s annual meeting in Chicago over the weekend.
Herbalife was down 6.7 percent to $68.99 after the nutritional supplement maker lowered its sales outlook for the current quarter a month after a rosy guidance followed results.
Approximately 5.52 billion shares changed hands on the major domestic equity indexes, making it one of the lowest volume days of the year. The number was also below the 6.6 billion share average over the last 20 trading days.
Economic Activity Moderates
The services sector showed slower activity during May as new orders fell, but a rise in employment to a near two-year high pointed to sustained labor market strength despite a deceleration in job growth last month.
The moderation in services industries production, together with other data on Monday showing orders for manufactured goods falling in April for the first time in five months and worker productivity unchanged in the first quarter, suggest limited scope for faster economic growth.
The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) said its non-manufacturing activity index fell six-tenths of a percentage point to a reading of 56.9. A reading above 50 indicates expansion in the sector, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity.
Services industries reported a 5.5 percentage points dive in new orders last month. Prices paid by non-manufacturing industries for materials and services declined after increasing for 13 straight months.
However, a measure of services sector employment rose 6.4 percentage points to its highest level since July 2015, suggesting labor market strength even as nonfarm payrolls increased 138,000 in May after rising 174,000 in April.
The decline in prices paid by services industries could attract attention from some Federal Reserve officials when they meet on June 13-14 to deliberate on monetary policy. The Fed is expected to raise its benchmark overnight interest rate by 25 basis points at that meeting after a similar increase in March.
The Commerce Department said factory goods orders were down 0.2 percent during April after chalking up a 1.0 percent increase during March. Orders rose 4.4 percent from a year ago.
Manufacturing, which accounts for about 12 percent of the economy, is being supported by a recovery in the energy sector that has led to demand for oil and gas drilling equipment.
A report from the Labor Department indicated that nonfarm productivity, which measures hourly output per worker, was unchanged in the last quarter. It was previously reported to have declined at a 0.6 percent annualized pace.
Productivity has increased at an average annual rate of 0.6 percent over the last five years, below its long-term rate of 2.1 percent from 1947 to 2016, indicating that the economy’s potential rate of growth has declined.
One theory is that low capital expenditure has resulted in a sharp decline in the capital-to-labor ratio, resulting in the weakness in productivity. There are also perceptions that productivity is being inaccurately measured, especially on the information technology side.