The major domestic equity indexes fell for a second straight day on Tuesday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average registering its largest two-day decline since September 2016, pressured by healthcare stocks and rising bond yields.
The Dow also had its largest daily percentage decline since May 2017 and the day’s 1.37-percent fall was the second-biggest single-day drop since the election of Donald Trump, slated to give his first State of the Union speech later Tuesday.
Treasury yields climbed to multi-year highs after the start of the Federal Reserve’s two-day meeting, which could shed light on the central bank’s economic and rate hike outlook.
The selloff set traders in the options market fretting about a near-term shock to equities and the CBOE Volatility Index was up 0.95 points to close at 14.79, its highest close since Aug. 17.
Healthcare stocks pulled the major indexes lower on news that Amazon., Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase will jointly form a healthcare company to help control costs for their domestic employees.
The S&P 500 Healthcare index was the day’s biggest loser among the 11 major sectors, falling 2.13 percent.
MetLife fell 8.6 percent and was the day’s worst performer, percentage wise, in the S&P 500 after news the SEC was investigating the insurer’s failure to pay some workers’ pensions.
UnitedHealth was the worst drag on the Dow, falling 4.3 percent. Pfizer was down 3.1 percent despite its better-than-expected earnings and upbeat 2018 guidance.
Harley-Davidson ended the trading day down 8.0 percent after announcing it would close a Kansas City plant in the face of declining shipments.
Apple fell for a second day, falling 0.6 percent on news that the Department of Justice and the SEC are investigating the company’s disclosure that it slowed older iPhones with flagging batteries.
Earnings so far have been stronger than expected. S&P 500 earnings growth is now forecast at 13.2 percent, up from 12 percent a month ago. Among companies that have reported so far, 80 percent are exceeding analysts’ expectations, according to Thomson Reuters data.
Investors will likely scrutinize Trump’s first State of the Union address for clues on trade policy and infrastructure spending.
Approximately 8.1 billion shares changed hands on the major domestic equity exchanges, as compared to the 7.1 billion share average over the past 20 trading days.