Day Traders Diary


Stocks tumbled on Thursday as a slew of leery headlines left buyers on the sidelines. The S&P 500 lost 2.5%, dropping into negative territory for the year (-1.1%) and extending its week-to-date decline to 3.9%, while the Nasdaq and the Dow tumbled 2.4% and 2.9%, respectively.

There was little doubt as to where the market was headed at Thursday's opening bell, as equity futures were down big in overnight trading. There wasn't a particular catalyst for the negative disposition, but disappointing PMI readings in the eurozone and Japan, an unsatisfying apology from Facebook's (FB 164.89, -4.50) CEO Mark Zuckerberg regarding the Cambridge Analytica data breach, and Wednesday's rate hike from the Fed didn't exactly bode well for investor sentiment.

The biggest headline catalyst, however, was President Trump's decision to impose tariffs of up to $60 billion on Chinese imports; Mr. Trump officially signed a presidential memorandum on Thursday afternoon. However, the decision wasn't a surprise -- Reuters first reported the president's desire to punish China for intellectual property theft via tariffs last week -- and actually had a silver lining considering the tariffs will only be implemented after a consultation period. Still, the duties do give new energy to the trade war debate.

Selling picked up notably in the final hour of the session, with the S&P 500 nearly doubling its earlier loss. The financial sector led the retreat, dropping 3.7%, as Treasury yields tumbled across the curve; the benchmark 10-yr yield declined eight basis points to 2.83%, while the 2-yr yield slid three basis points to 2.28%. The industrial sector (-3.3%) also showed notable weakness, while most of the remaining groups finished with losses of more than 2.0%.

The most influential sector, information technology, declined 2.7% -- a discouraging sign for investors who have looked to the sector for leadership; the tech group led last year's rally and is still the top-performing sector of 2018 despite Thursday's slide, up 4.3% year to date. Accenture (ACN 150.23, -11.80) was the tech sector's worst-performing component on Thursday, tumbling 7.3%, despite beating earnings and revenue estimates for its fiscal second quarter and raising its yearly guidance.

In other corporate news, AbbVie (ABBV 98.10, -14.35) shares dropped 12.8% after the drugmaker provided a disappointing update on its experimental cancer drug Rova-T, saying data from a phase two trial was not strong enough to justify seeking accelerated approval. The health care sector lost 2.9%.

On a positive note, the rate-sensitive utilities sector advanced 0.4%, benefiting from the decline in Treasury yields.

Investors received several pieces of economic data on Thursday morning, including the weekly Initial Jobless Claims Report, the FHFA Housing Price Index for January, and the Conference Board's Leading Economic Index for February:

  • The latest weekly initial jobless claims count totaled 229,000, while the consensus expected a reading of 225,000. Today's tally was above the unrevised prior week count of 226,000. As for continuing claims, they declined to 1.828 million from a revised count of 1.885 million (from 1.879 million).
    • The key takeaway from this report is that it covered the period in which the survey for the March employment report was taken, so the low level of initial claims will feed estimates for another strong gain in nonfarm payrolls.
  • The FHFA Housing Price Index increased 0.8% in January ( consensus +0.4%), while the December reading was revised to +0.4% from +0.3%.
  • The Conference Board's Leading Economic Index increased 0.6% in February ( consensus +0.5%). The prior month's reading was revised to +0.8% from +1.0%.
    • The key takeaway from the report is that the strength among the leading indicators remained widespread, with eight of its ten components making positive contributions.

On Friday, investors will receive just two economic reports -- Durable Goods Orders for February ( consensus +1.5%) and New Home Sales for February ( consensus 620K) -- which will be released at 8:30 AM ET and 10:00 AM ET, respectively.

  • Nasdaq Composite: +3.8% YTD
  • S&P 500: -1.1% YTD
  • Dow Jones Industrial Average: -3.1% YTD
  • Russell 2000: +0.6% YTD

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