Wall Street ended the trading day on Monday with little change as concerns about soft smartphone demand weighed on tech stocks and pulled the Nasdaq lower while earnings optimism protected against deeper losses.
Tech stocks dragged on both the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq ahead of a big week of earnings for the sector. Chip manufacturers saw their shares slide after the world’s largest contract chipmaker, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing, cut its full-year revenue target due to softer demand for smartphones.
Yields on 10-year Treasuries rose to their highest level since January 2014 amid concerns over the growing supply of government debt and accelerating inflation.
Earnings provided a bright spot, with 18 percent of the companies in the S&P 500 having reported, 78.2 percent of which have beat consensus estimates.
Look for earnings growth at S&P 500 companies to be nearly 20 percent in the first quarter, the strongest showing in seven years, according to Thomson Reuters data.
Alphabet was up slightly in volatile after-hours trading following its earnings release; the company reported a 73 percent increase in earnings for its first quarter.
Quarterly results are expected this week from 181 S&P 500 companies, including Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon and Intel.
Of the 11 major S&P sectors, six ended the session in positive territory, with the largest percentage gain coming from the Telecom index.
The Philadelphia Semiconductor index closed down 1.3 percent, posting its fourth straight session of declines on concerns of slowing smartphone demand.
Merck helped lift the healthcare sector, 2.4 percent following a Goldman Sachs upgrade to “buy.”
Shares of aluminum companies were lower after we opened the door to sanctions relief for Russian aluminum giant United Company Rusal. Alcoa fell 13.5 percent and Arconic fell 5.2 percent, making it the largest percentage loser on the S&P.
Approximately 5.76 billion shares changed hands on the major domestic equity exchanges, as compared to the 6.80 billion share average for the full session over the past 20 trading days.
Home Sales Up Sharply
Home sales increased for a second straight month in March amid a rebound in activity in the Northeast and Midwest regions, but a dearth of houses on the market and higher prices remain headwinds as the spring selling season kicks off.
The supply squeeze is expected to ease somewhat later this year as data last week showed the stock of housing under construction rising in March to levels last seen in July 2007.
According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR) existing home sales rose 1.1 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.60 million units last month. The market for previously owned homes accounts for about 90 percent of U.S. home sales. Sales fell 1.2 percent year-on-year in March.
Sales rose in the Northeast and Midwest, after being weighed down by bad weather in February, but fell in the South and the West.
There is an acute shortage of homes, especially at the lower end of the market. According to the NAR, sales of houses priced below $100,000 dropped 21 percent in March from a year ago.
The resulting higher house prices and rising mortgage rates are a constraint for first-time buyers, who have been largely priced out of the market. First-time home buyers accounted for 30 percent of transactions last month, up from 29 percent in February, but down from 32 percent year ago.
The 30-year fixed mortgage rate is around 4.47 percent, the highest level since January 2014. The Federal Reserve raised interest rates last month against the backdrop of a tightening labor market and expansionary fiscal policy.
The PHLX housing index was trading higher, outperforming a marginally firmer stock market.
While the number of previously owned homes on the market rose 5.7 percent to 1.67 million units in March, housing inventory was down 7.2 percent from a year ago. Supply has declined for 34 straight months on a year-on-year basis.
Houses for sale typically stayed on the market for 30 days in March, down from 37 days in February and 34 days a year ago.
At March’s sales pace, it would take 3.6 months to exhaust the current inventory, up from 3.4 months in February.
A six-to-seven-month supply is viewed as a healthy balance between supply and demand. The median house price increased 5.8 percent from a year ago to $250,400 in March. That was the 73rd consecutive month of year-on-year price gains.
NAR indicated that housing inventory was likely to start increasing on an annual basis in late summer. Government data last week showed the inventory of housing under construction rose 0.3 percent to 1.125 million in March, the highest level since July 2007. Single-family units under construction climbed 0.2 percent to the highest level since June 2008.
Less Oil from OPEC More from U.S.
As OPEC’s tries to balance the oil market bear fruit, U.S. producers are reaping the benefits – and flooding Europe with a record amount of crude.
Russia paired with the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries last year in cutting oil output jointly by 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd), a deal they say has largely rebalanced the market and one that has helped elevate benchmark Brent prices LCOc1 close to four-year highs.
The relatively high prices brought about by that pact, coupled with surging U.S. output, are making it harder to sell Russian, Nigerian and other oil grades in Europe, traders said.
U.S. oil output is expected to hit 10.7 million bpd this year, rivaling that of top producers Russia and Saudi Arabia. In April, U.S. supplies to Europe are set to reach an all-time high of roughly 550,000 bpd (around 2.2 million tonnes), according to the Thomson Reuters Eikon trade flows monitor.
In January-April, U.S. supplies jumped four-fold year-on-year to 6.8 million tonnes, or 68 large Aframax tankers, according to the same data.
Moreover, U.S. flows to Europe would keep rising, with U.S. barrels increasingly finding homes in foreign refineries, often at the expense of oil from OPEC or Russia.
In 2017, Europe took roughly 7 percent of U.S. crude exports, Reuters data showed, but the proportion has already risen to roughly 12 percent this year.
Top destinations include Britain, Italy and the Netherlands, with traders pointing to large imports by BP, Exxon Mobil and Valero.
While the United States lifted its oil export ban in late 2015, the move took time to gain traction among Europe’s traditional refineries, which were slow to diversify away from crude from the North Sea, West Africa and the Caspian.
U.S. oil gained in popularity in part because of the wide gap between West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark, and dated Brent, which is more expensive and sets the price for most of the world’s crude grades.
This gap, known as the Brent/WTI spread, has averaged $4.46 per barrel this year, nearly twice as high as the year-earlier figure, Reuters data showed.
The most popular U.S. grades in Europe are WTI, Light Louisiana Sweet, Eagle Ford, Bakken and Mars.
Prices for alternative local grades have been slashed as a result.
WTI was available at 80-90 cent premiums delivered to Italy’s Augusta, well below offers of Azeri BTC at a premium of $1.60 a barrel, according to trading sources. U.S. oil is even edging out North Sea Forties, which is produced in the backyard of the continent’s refineries.
Cargoes of WTI were offered in Rotterdam at premiums of around 50-60 cents a barrel above dated Brent, cheaper than Forties’ premium of 75 cents to dated.