The major domestic equity indexes were lower on Tuesday, suffering their fourth decline in five sessions, fueled by a selloff in the tech sector. Tech stocks, among the best performing sectors of the bull market, have been under pressure partly because of concerns about government regulation stemming the privacy questions surrounding Facebook.
Facebook shares fell 4.9 percent to end the trading day at $152.22. They are down nearly 15 percent for the month. The Nasdaq Internet index saw its worst daily percentage drop since June 2016.
The drop in Facebook continues to put pressure on the tech sector, which is down 5.2 percent so far in March and is on track for its worst month since April 2016.
Privacy concerns for the social media giant were highlighted further on Tuesday when a whistleblower said Canadian company AggregateIQ had developed software to target Republican voters in the 2016 U.S. election.
Alphabet fell 4.5 percent after an appeals courts resurrected a multibillion dollar copyright case brought by Oracle against the company.
Nvidia was another weak spot, falling 7.8 percent after the chipmaker temporarily suspended self-driving tests across the globe.
Tesla shares were off 8.2 percent after the National Transportation Safety Board opened a field investigation of last week’s fatal Tesla crash and vehicle fire.
Twitter fell 12 percent after short-seller Citron Research called the stock “most vulnerable” to privacy regulations.
Of the 11 major sectors of the S&P 500 only defensive plays such as consumer staples, telecom, real estate and utilities ended the session in positive territory.
Since hitting a record on Jan. 26, equities have been battered by worries about rising inflation, the pace of interest rate hikes by the Fed and the possibility of a global trade war. The S&P 500 is down 9.1 percent from its high.
White House trade adviser Peter Navarro confirmed on Monday top Trump administration officials have asked China to cut tariffs on imported cars, allow foreign majority ownership of financial services firms and to buy more of our semiconductors in negotiations to avoid imposing tariffs on a host of Chinese goods.
Word on the Street is that these discussions were among the asks from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer as they pursue talks with Beijing.
Approximately 7.57 billion shares changed hands on the major domestic equity exchanges, as compared to the 7.37 billion share average over the past 20 trading days.
Consumer Confidence Falls
Consumer confidence fell from more than a 17-year high in March amid stock market volatility, but households remained upbeat about labor market conditions, which could help to support consumer spending.
The Conference Board indicated on Tuesday that its consumer confidence index fell 2.3 points to a reading of 127.7 this month, down from a revised 130.0 in February, which was the highest level since November 2000. The index was previously reported at 130.8 in February.
Aiding the decline in confidence has been the fact that Wall Street has been roiled by the threat of a global trade war after the White House imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. Trump last week signed a memorandum targeting up to $60 billion in Chinese goods with tariffs over what his administration says is misappropriation of our intellectual property.
The Conference Board survey’s so-called labor market differential, derived from data on respondents’ views on whether jobs are plentiful or hard to get, increased to 25.0 in March, the strongest reading since May 2001, from 24.0 in February. That measure, which closely correlates to the unemployment rate in the Labor Department’s employment report, suggests that labor market slack continues to shrink.
Retail sales have declined for three straight months, leading economists to expect a slowdown in consumer spending in the first quarter. Consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of our economic activity, grew at a 3.8 percent annualized rate in the fourth quarter.
Rising house prices could also boost consumer spending. A separate report on Tuesday showed the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller composite index of home prices in 20 metropolitan areas increased 6.4 percent in the 12 months to January after rising 6.3 percent in December.
Higher house prices are bolstering household wealth. But the house price inflation is being driven by an acute shortage of homes available for sale, which is hurting the housing market.