The major domestic equity indexes sold off further on Friday and the S&P 500 flirted with correction territory as disappointing results from a couple of key tech companies resulted in the Street punishing technology and internet shares.
The S&P 500 ended at its lowest level since early May after technology and internet shares sold off further on Friday, capping a volatile week that confirmed a correction for the Nasdaq.
The benchmark S&P 500 also flirted with correction territory, defined as when an index closes 10 percent or more below its all-time closing high, but recovered to end above that level.
Amazon and Alphabet sparked the day’s selloff and overshadowed data indicating the economy continued to grow at a healthy clip after their numbers released last night did not quite meet Street expectations.
Alphabet’s missed revenue number fanned concerns that regulatory scrutiny and competition would check its pace of growth. The stock fell as much as 5.6 percent before recovering to end down just 1.8 percent.
Amazon closed out the trading day on Friday down 7.8 percent, making it the worst daily percentage drop since October 2014, after it missed quarterly sales estimates and gave a below par holiday-season sales forecast.
The S&P 500 finished at its lowest level since May 3. The Nasdaq fell 3.8 percent for the week, its largest weekly decline since March 23, while the Dow was down 3 percent and the S&P 500 was down 4 percent on the week.
While economic growth is mostly healthy, disappointing corporate results and forecasts this earnings season have shown how tariffs, rising wages and borrowing costs as well as jitters over geopolitical events are decimating the financial markets. Nonetheless, data earlier in the day indicated that the economy continued to grow at a healthy pace, offering some support.
GDP growth slowed less than expected in the third quarter as a tariff-related drop in soybean exports was partially offset by the strongest consumer spending in nearly four years and a surge in inventory investment.
The Cboe Volatility Index finished little changed at 24.16.
Approximately 10.2 billion shares changed hands on the major domestic equity exchanges, as compared to the 8.3 billion share daily average over the past 20 trading days.
GDP Better Than Expected
The economy slowed less than expected in the third quarter as a tariff-related drop in soybean exports was partially offset by the strongest consumer spending in nearly four years, keeping it on track to hit 3 percent growth this year.
A report by the Commerce Department released Friday morning indicated that the nation’s gross domestic product statistic showed an increase of an annualized 3.5 percent growth rate. The rise was supported by an increase in inventory investment and solid government spending. It was the Department’s first estimate of third-quarter GDP growth.
Although the latest reading was a slowdown from a 4.2 percent pace in the second quarter, it still exceeded the economy’s growth potential, which economists put at 2 percent.
Compared to the third quarter of 2017, the economy grew 3.0 percent, the best performance since the second quarter of 2015.
However, business spending slowed, and residential investment declined for a third straight quarter. Both were potential red flags of potential trouble going forward to the economic expansion that is now in its ninth year and the second longest on record.
The economy is underpinned by a $1.5 trillion tax cut and increased government spending. The fiscal stimulus is part of measures designed to raise annual growth to 3 percent on a sustainable basis.
Yet the government is also locked in a bitter trade war with China as well as trade disputes with other trade partners and the last quarter’s slowdown mostly reflected the impact of Beijing’s retaliatory tariffs on our exports, including soybeans.
Farmers front-loaded shipments to China before the tariffs took effect in early July, boosting second-quarter growth. Since then, soybean exports have declined every month, increasing the trade deficit.
There were also decreases in exports of petroleum and non-automotive capital goods. However, strong domestic demand resulted in rising imports of consumer goods and motor vehicles.
The widening trade gap chopped off 1.78 percentage points from GDP growth in the third quarter. That was the most since the second quarter of 1985 and reversed the 1.22 percentage point contribution in the April-June period.
Some of the rebound in imports reflected businesses stockpiling before U.S. import duties, mostly on Chinese goods, came into effect late in the quarter. Imports are a drag on GDP growth. But some of the imports likely ended up in warehouses, adding to the stockpile of inventory, which adds to GDP.
Inventories increased at a $76.3 billion rate after declining at a $36.8 billion pace in the second quarter. As a result, inventory investment added 2.07 percentage points to GDP growth, the biggest contribution since the first quarter of 2015, after slicing off 1.1 percentage points from output in the second quarter.
Excluding the effects of trade and inventories, GDP grew at a 3.1 percent rate in the third quarter compared to a 4.0 percent pace in April-June.
Solid third-quarter growth is expected to keep the Federal Reserve on course to raise interest rates again in December, despite a recent tightening in financial market conditions brought about by a stock market sell-off and a rise in U.S. Treasury yields.
The GDP report showed the Fed’s preferred inflation gauge, the personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index excluding food and energy, increased at 1.6 percent rate in the third quarter. The core PCE price index rose at a 2.1 percent pace in the April-June period.
Growth in consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, increased at a 4.0 percent rate in the third quarter. That was the fastest pace since the fourth quarter of 2014 and followed a 3.8 percent pace of increase in the second quarter.
Consumption is being supported in part by a tightening labor market, characterized by an unemployment rate that is at a near 49-year low of 3.7 percent.
However, headwinds for the economy are growing. Business spending on equipment increased at a 0.4 percent rate, the slowest in two years, after rising at a 4.6 percent pace in the second quarter.
Businesses are seeing rising difficulties in hiring workers and the import tariffs have increased and are continuing to increase manufacturing costs. At the same time, higher interest rates are pressuring the housing market, which contracted at its steepest pace in more than a year in the third quarter.