The major domestic equity indexes edged higher on Tuesday as gains for the tech and industrial sectors countered weakness in auto and energy stocks and investors digested a heavy day of earnings reports.
Ford fell 4.4 percent and General Motors was down 2.9 percent, as major automakers posted declines in new vehicle sales for April.
In after-hours trading, Apple fell more than 1 percent after the company reported a surprise drop in iPhone sales for the quarter. Apple had gained 0.6 percent during regular trading ahead of the report.
Other significant events later in the week, include Wednesday’s expected statement from the Federal Reserve, which began meeting on Tuesday, and Friday’s employment report. The Fed is widely expected to stand pat on interest rates, but may offer hints on the possibility of a rate hike in June.
The benchmark S&P 500 index is approaching record highs during an earnings season that has generally exceeded expectations. Overall, profits at S&P 500 companies are estimated to have risen 13.9 percent in the first quarter, the most since 2011, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
The technology sector index rose 0.3 percent, its fourth straight day of gains. Industrials gained 0.5 percent, helped by airlines shares after Delta said its passenger unit revenue increased 1 percent in April.
The energy index fell 0.5 percent as oil prices weakened.
The S&P 500 has climbed 11.8 percent since the election, fueled by hopes for his plans for tax cuts, deregulation and infrastructure spending, though investors have questioned his ability to enact his agenda.
In earnings news, Advanced Micro Devices fell 24.4 percent after the chipmaker’s second-quarter gross margins forecast raised some concerns. The stock was the largest percentage decline in the S&P 500.
Archer Daniels Midland fell 8.9 percent and CVS Health was down 3.6 percent after their respective quarterly reports.
Coach rose 11.4 percent, making it the largest gainer on the S&P, as the handbag maker cut back on discounting in the United States and sold more expensive bags.
Approximately 7 billion shares changed hands on the major domestic equity exchanges, a number that was above the 6.5 billion share daily average over the last 20 sessions.
Auto Sales in Trouble
Major automakers on Tuesday posted declines in new vehicle sales for April in a sign the long boom cycle that lifted the auto industry to record sales last year is losing steam, sending carmaker stocks down.
The decline in sales versus April 2016 came on the heels of a disappointing March, which automakers had shrugged off as just a bad month. But two straight weak months has heightened Wall Street worries the cyclical industry is on a downward swing after a nearly uninterrupted boom since the Great Recession’s end in 2010.
According to last Friday’s report by the Commerce Department, auto sales were a drag on first-quarter gross domestic product, with the economy growing at an annual rate of just 0.7 percent. Excluding the auto sector the GDP growth rate would have been 1.2 percent.
Industry consultant Autodata put the industry’s seasonally adjusted annualized rate of sales at 16.88 million units for April, below the average of 17.2 million units predicted by analysts polled by Reuters.
General Motors fell 2.9 percent while Ford) slid 4.3 percent and Fiat Chrysler tumbled 4.2 percent.
The auto industry faces multiple challenges. Sales are slipping and vehicle inventory levels have risen even as carmakers have hiked discounts to lure customers. A flood of used vehicles from the boom cycle are increasingly competing with new cars.
The question for automakers: How much and for how long to curtail production this summer, which will result in worker layoffs?
To bring down stocks of unsold vehicles, the Detroit must reduce production and offer more discounts without creating an incentives competition. Meanwhile, rival automakers will be watching each other to see if one is cutting prices to gain market share from another, he said, instead of just clearing inventory.
Last week GM reported a record first-quarter profit, but that had almost zero impact on the automaker’s stock. However, GM has slipped behind luxury carmaker Tesla Inc in terms of valuation. On Tuesday, Tesla’s market value was $53 billion, nearly $3 billion larger than GM’s.
GM said April sales fell 6 percent, but crossovers and trucks continued to see strong growth. Sales at Ford, the No. 2 U.S. automaker by sales after GM, fell 7.2 percent in April, while Toyota recorded a decline of 4.4 percent and FCA sales were off 7 percent.
Consumers have increasingly shunned cars in favor of larger crossovers, SUVs and trucks. While automakers posted steep sales declines for cars in April, SUVs, crossovers and trucks were either up or off only slightly.
New vehicle sales hit a record 17.55 million units in 2016. But as the consumer appetite for new cars has waned, automakers have counted heavily on discounts.
GM said its consumer discounts were equivalent to 11.7 percent of the transaction price. The automaker also said its inventory level rose to 100 days of supply at the end of April versus around 70 days at the end of 2016.
Recent levels have worried analysts, and GM has promised inventories will be down by the end of 2017. Ford car sales dropped 21 percent and trucks declined 4.2 percent, while SUV sales rose 1.2 percent.
Toyota’s luxury Lexus brand posted an 11.1 percent slide. U.S. car sales at the Japanese automaker were down 10.4 percent, while truck sales were up 2.1 percent. Nissan said April U.S. sales were off 1.5 percent, but SUVs, crossovers and trucks jumped 11 percent. Honda reported a 7 percent decline in sales in April, with cars off 7.4 percent and trucks up just 0.8 percent.