Stocks ended Wednesday's session on a solidly lower note, despite getting off to a good start. The S&P 500 was up as much as 0.9%, but finished lower by 0.9%, closing below its 50-day moving average for the first time in seven weeks. The Dow declined 0.7%, and the Nasdaq and the Russell 2000 lost 1.5%-1.7% apiece.
Investors were in an upbeat mood at the opening bell following news that the White House will defer regulating foreign investment in U.S. technology firms to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). That decision was seen as a less-aggressive alternative to reports earlier this week that the Trump administration would like to directly bar foreign investment in U.S. tech firms.
However, the bullish vibe soon petered out. There wasn't a news catalyst behind the shift in sentiment; rather, underwhelming performances from the information technology and financial sectors helped to turn the tide. The two spaces eventually finished at the bottom of the sector standings, losing 1.3%-1.5% apiece.
That marks the 13th straight loss for the heavily-weighted financial space, which has been suffering amid a flattening of the yield curve. The 2s10s spread declined by another three basis points on Wednesday, dropping to 32 bps -- its lowest level in more than a decade. The benchmark 10-yr yield tumbled five basis points to 2.83%.
As for the top-weighted tech space, its weak performance was likely the result of some end-of-quarter churn as managers look to re-balance their portfolios. Even with Wednesday's drop, the tech space has had an impressive quarter, rallying 5.6% -- much better than the S&P 500's three-month gain of 2.2%.
On the flip side, the energy sector was the top-performing space for the second day in a row, adding 1.3%, thanks to another crude rally. WTI crude futures soared 3.1% to $72.69/bbl, hitting a fresh three-and-a-half year high, after the weekly government inventory data showed a larger-than-expected draw of 9.9 million barrels.
In corporate news, shares of ConAgra Brands (CAG 35.45, -2.78) tumbled 7.3% after the company announced it will be acquiring Pinnacle Foods (PF 64.95, -2.91) for approximately $8 billion in cash and stock. Shares of Pinnacle Foods lost 4.3%.
Meanwhile, shares of 21st Century Fox (FOXA 48.80, +1.12) rallied 2.4% after Walt Disney (DIS 103.96, -0.30) won DOJ approval to buy most of Fox's assets for $71.3 billion. The deal is subject to the condition that Disney sells 22 regional sports networks.
Elsewhere, the U.S. Dollar Index soared 0.7% on Wednesday to 95.02, hitting a fresh 11-month high.
It's also worth noting that Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement on Wednesday, effective July 31. Although he identifies as a conservative, Mr. Kennedy is considered a swing vote as he often sides with his liberal colleagues. His retirement gives President Trump the chance to strengthen the court's conservative majority.
Reviewing today's economic data, which included the Durable Goods Orders report for May, the advance readings for May Wholesale Inventories and International Trade in Goods, the Pending Home Sales report for May, and the weekly MBA Mortgage Applications Index:
- May durable goods orders fell 0.6%, which is less than the 1.0% decrease expected by the Briefing.com consensus. The prior month's reading was revised to -1.0% (from -1.7%). Excluding transportation, durable orders decreased 0.3% (Briefing.com consensus +0.4%) to follow the prior month's revised increase of 1.9% (from 0.9%).
- The key takeaway from the report is that the downturn in May appeared to be a simple pullback from a robust month of order activity, excluding transportation, in April. To wit, orders for fabricated metal products fell 1.2% after increasing 3.3% in April.
- The Advance report for International Trade in Goods for May showed a deficit of $64.8 billion, and the Advance report for Wholesale Inventories for May showed an increase of 0.5%.
- Pending Home Sales decreased 0.5% in May (Briefing.com consensus +0.8%). The May reading follows an unrevised 1.3% decrease in April.
- The weekly MBA Mortgage Applications Index declined 4.9% to follow last week's rise of 5.1%.
On Thursday, investors will receive the third estimate for first quarter GDP and the weekly Initial Claims report.
- Nasdaq Composite +7.9% YTD
- Russell 2000 +6.8% YTD
- S&P 500 +1.0% YTD
- Dow Jones Industrial Average -2.4% YTD