Stocks have extended this week's losses today, dipping into negative territory for the month.
Investors have exerted caution after the Senate announced on Tuesday evening that it has added a provision to its tax reform bill that would repeal the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate, which requires all Americans to have health insurance. The individual mandate is a topic of much debate and an attempt to repeal it may delay the GOP's tax reform effort.
However, the larger narrative is much the same as investors debate whether recent weakness on Wall Street is a direct result of concerns surrounding tax reform or an overdue pullback for a market that is fresh off its most recent push to new record highs and remains solidly higher for the year; the S&P 500 is up 14.8% year to date.
In today's session, the S&P 500, the Dow, and the Nasdaq hold losses of around 0.3% apiece.
Those declines were more than double that at today's opening bell, but a positive performance from the heavily-weighted financial sector (+0.3%) has helped keep the bears in check. Within the group, heavyweights like JPMorgan Chase (JPM 98.45, +1.20) and Bank of America (BAC 26.76, +0.52) show relative strength, sporting respective gains of 1.2% and 1.9%.
Meanwhile, energy shares are solidly lower once again today as the price of crude oil continues to retreat from the two-year high it touched last week; WTI crude futures are down 0.7% at $55.35 per barrel, while the energy sector is lower by 0.9%--extending its week-to-date loss to 2.9%.
The Energy Information Administration released its weekly crude inventory report this morning, showing that U.S. crude stockpiles unexpectedly rose by 1.9 million barrels last week. Crude futures were lower ahead of the EIA release and have pared those losses slightly in the aftermath.
Other groups showing relative weakness include the top-weighted technology sector (-0.7%) and the less influential consumer staples (-0.6%), utilities (-0.6%), and real estate (-0.5%) spaces, which have had an otherwise solid week. Within the tech space, Apple (AAPL 169.49, -1.82) holds a loss of 1.1%.
On the earnings front, Target (TGT 54.42, -5.67) has tumbled 9.4% after a disappointing earnings forecast for the holiday season outweighed better-than-expected third quarter profits. Retailers are higher in general, however, after the October Retail Sales Report showed an upbeat month-over-month increase of 0.2% (Briefing.com consensus +0.1%).
In the bond market, U.S. Treasuries have given back some of their earlier gains, but longer-dated issues are still trading in the green. The yield on the benchmark 10-yr Treasury note is down four basis points at 2.34%. Yields move inversely to prices.
Elsewhere, indices in the Asia-Pacific region finished Wednesday lower, as did the major European bourses--a move that was led by the UK's FTSE (-0.6%).
Reviewing Wednesday's economic data, which included the Consumer Price Index for October, Retail Sales for October, September Business Inventories, November Empire Manufacturing, and the weekly MBA Mortgage Applications Index:
- Total CPI increased 0.1% (Briefing.com consensus +0.1%) in October while core CPI, which excludes food and energy, rose 0.2% (Briefing.com consensus +0.2%). On a year-over-year basis, total CPI and core CPI are up 2.0% and 1.8%, respectively.
- The key takeaway from the report is that inflation pressures are still not acute, yet they are likely not weak enough to persuade the Federal Reserve from raising the fed funds rate again at its December meeting.
- October retail sales increased 0.2% (Briefing.com consensus +0.1%). The prior month's increase was revised to 1.9% from 1.6%. Excluding autos, retail sales increased 0.1% in October while the Briefing.com consensus expected an increase of 0.2%. The prior month's increase was revised to 1.2% from 1.0%.
- The key takeaway from the report is that it isn't as soft as it appears at first blush, as there was an unwinding of some of the hurricane-related sales strength that led to the remarkably strong sales activity in September.
- Business Inventories were unchanged (0.0%) in September, as expected. The August reading was revised to 0.6% from 0.7%.
- The key takeaway from the report is that sales growth is outpacing inventory growth, which is a step toward regaining some pricing power.
- The Empire Manufacturing Survey for November declined to 19.4 from the prior month's reading of 30.2. The Briefing.com consensus estimate was pegged at 26.0.
- The weekly MBA Mortgage Applications Index increased 3.1%.