The major equity indexes closed out the trading day with a glint of green as technology stocks recovered somewhat, although bank stocks tumbled and uncertainty over Britain’s exit from the European Union kept Wall Street on edge.
The energy index was the S&P’s largest percentage loser as oil prices declined and financial stocks fell with the S&P 500 bank index confirming it was in bear territory. At the same time, Apple Inc shares appeared to cheer up investors in the broader technology sector.
Once the S&P neared its 2018 low, reached on February 8, trading algorithms appeared to kick in with signals to start buying. After hitting a session low late in the morning the S&P 500 index spent the rest of the day paring losses at an uneven pace before turning positive.
British Prime Minister Theresa May added a wrinkle to global uncertainty on Monday by delaying a planned vote in parliament on her Brexit deal, saying it was set to be rejected “by a significant margin”.
After a sea of red in the morning, eight of the 11 major S&P sectors closed higher. The technology sector led the gainers with a 1.4 percent gain followed with a 0.8 percent increase in the communications sector. Energy stocks retreated 1.6 percent, the most among the 11 S&P sectors as oil prices fell.
The second largest decline was a 1.4 percent drop in financials due in part to the impact on slowing global growth and interest rates on banks. The rate-sensitive bank subsector fell 2.3 percent.
Apple ended the day with a gain of 0.7 percent at $169.60 after hitting a low of $163.33 earlier in the day after Qualcomm indicated it had won a preliminary order from a Chinese court banning the import and sale of several iPhone models in China due to patent violations.
Approximately 8.40 billion shares changed hands on the major domestic equity exchanges, as compared to the 8.01 billion share average for the past 20 trading days.
Job Openings Rise
Job openings recovered in October, exceeding the number of unemployed workers by 1 million, indicating demand for workers was strong before November’s slowdown in payroll gains.
According to a report released by the Labor Department on Monday morning, the number of positions waiting to be filled rose by 119,000 to 7.08 million, after a downwardly revised 6.96 million in the prior month, according to the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey or JOLTS.
The quits rate fell to 2.3 percent from 2.4 percent, the first decline since January, as the number of Americans voluntarily leaving their jobs declined to 3.51 million.
The number of openings is the second-highest on record, reinforcing the view that the trend of employment is strong enough to keep absorbing slack, though the November payrolls report on Friday showed the job market softened a bit.
Even with the decline in the quits rate, the results indicate workers are still willing to voluntarily leave because they’re confident of finding better employment or benefits elsewhere. The rate is closely watched by Federal Reserve policy makers as they monitor for signs of upward pressure on worker pay that may feed overall inflation.
Although it lags the Labor Department’s other jobs data by a month, the JOLTS report adds context to monthly employment figures by measuring dynamics such as resignations, help-wanted ads and hiring.
Job postings exceeded the number of unemployed people by about 1 million, close to the highest in records back to 2000. That’s another positive sign for wages, which are finally picking up amid employers’ reports of a shortage of skilled workers.
Hiring increased to 5.89 million in October, bringing the hiring rate up to 3.9 percent from 3.8 percent, in line with the stronger job gains during the month. Together with subdued firings, the run of steady hiring has helped push down the unemployment rate to the lowest since 1969.
Layoffs declined to 1.69 million, a three-month low. Job openings increased in manufacturing, construction, real estate, information and retail. Vacancies declined in transportation, warehousing and utilities; and in professional and business services.
Nearly Half of S&P 500 Stocks In a Bear Market
The S&P 500 is not yet in a bear market, but nearly half of its components are. The S&P 500 fell on Monday, by 0.25 percent, putting the benchmark index on track for its lowest close since May and stirring fears that a decade-old Wall Street rally may be over. Earlier in the session, the index was down as much as 1.9 percent, before ending the day up 0.18 percent.
The S&P 500 index has been in a correction since October, defined by many investors as a drop of 10 percent or more from a high. It has not crossed the 20 percent threshold, widely viewed as the definition of a bear market.
However, 245 stocks in the S&P 500 – 49 percent of its components – on Monday had fallen 20 percent or more from their 52-week highs. Another 127 S&P 500 stocks had fallen 10 percent or more from their 52-week highs, but less than 20 percent.
The index on Monday was down about 10 percent from its Sept. 20 record high close.
Apple, until recently Wall Street’s most valuable company and the largest component of the S&P 500, has declined 27 percent from its record high on October 3.
Pessimism has spread beyond the S&P 500 to smaller companies, with hundreds of stocks hitting lows for the year on a daily basis in recent sessions.
S&P 500 components deepest in bear market territory include Nektar Therapeutics, Coty and General Electric, each down more than 60 percent from its 52-week high.
Microsoft, which in late November dethroned Apple as Wall Street’s largest company, is down 8 percent from its Oct. 3 record high.