Disappointing Data, Shutdown Lead To Weakness On Wall Street - U.S. Commentary
The major averages moved roughly sideways going into the close, stuck firmly in negative territory. The Dow tumbled 136.66 points or 0.9 percent to 14,996.48, the Nasdaq slid 40.68 points or 1.1 percent to 3,774.34 and the S&P 500 fell 15.21 points or 0.9 percent to 1,678.66.
After seeing some early weakness, stocks accelerated to the downside following the release of a report from the Institute for Supply Management showing a bigger than expected slowdown in the pace of service sector growth.
The ISM said its non-manufacturing index dropped to 54.4 in September from 58.6 in August. While a reading above 50 indicates continued growth in the service sector, economists had expected the index to show a much more modest decrease to a reading of 57.0.
Anthony Nieves, chair of the ISM Non-Manufacturing Business Survey Committee, said, "The majority of the respondents' comments continue to be positive; however, there is an increase in the degree of uncertainty regarding the future business climate and the direction of the economy."
The weakness on Wall Street also reflected concerns about the economic impact of a prolonged government shutdown amid continued signs of intransigence among lawmakers from both parties.
President Barack Obama met with Congressional leaders Wednesday night, but the meeting did not make much progress toward a compromise on a temporary spending bill.
While the White House said Obama made clear that he will not negotiate over the need for Congress to act to reopen the government, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, continued to call for Democrats to agree to delay the implementation of certain provisions of the healthcare reform law.
Meanwhile, traders largely shrugged off a report from the Labor Department showing a smaller than expected increase in initial jobless claims in the week ended September 28th.
The report said initial jobless claims inched up to 308,000, an increase of 1,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 307,000. Economists had been expecting initial jobless claims to climb to 315,000 from the 305,000 originally reported for the previous week.
The latest data came from before the government shutdown, which could have a negative impact on the labor market if lawmakers are not able to reach a compromise in the near future.
Commercial real estate stocks turned in some of the market's worst performances on the day, dragging the Morgan Stanley REIT Index down by 1.8 percent. With the loss, the index fell to its lowest closing level in almost a month.
Significant weakness was also visible among trucking stocks, as reflected by the 1.6 percent loss posted by the Dow Jones Trucking Index. YRC Worldwide (YRCW) posted a steep loss.
Housing stocks also saw considerable weakness on the day, resulting in a 1.5 percent drop by the Philadelphia Housing Sector Index.
Brokerage, internet, and utilities stocks also came under pressure, moving lower along with most of the other major sectors.
In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region moved mostly higher on Thursday. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index advanced by 1 percent and Australia's All Ordinaries Index rose by 0.3 percent. However, Japan's Nikkei 225 Index bucked the uptrend once again, edging down by 0.1 percent.
Meanwhile, the major European markets turned in a mixed performance. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index inched up by 0.2 percent, the German DAX Index fell by 0.4 percent and the French CAC 40 Index slumped by 0.7 percent.
In the bond market, treasuries moved modestly higher over the course of the session after seeing initial weakness. Subsequently, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, edged down by 2 basis points to 2.606 percent.
With the ongoing government shutdown postponing the release of the monthly jobs report, trading activity on Friday may be somewhat subdued.
Nonetheless, traders are likely to keep a close eye on any significant developments in Washington as well as speeches from some Federal Reserve officials.