Stocks kicked off the second quarter with a modest sell-off.

First the scoreboard:

Dow: 14,559, -18.3 pts, -0.1 per cent
S&P 500: 1,559, -9.3 pts, -0.6 per cent
NASDAQ: 3,231, -35.0 pts, -1.0 per cent

And now the top stories:

  • All things considered, the market sell-off could’ve been much worse.  There was a quite a bit of March economic data released today, and much of it was disappointing.
  • Two major U.S. manufacturing indices were disappointing.  The U.S. PMI unexpectedly fell to 54.6 from 54.9 in February. The ISM manufacturing index fell to 51.3 from 54.2 last month.  Any reading above 50 implies growth.
  • “Since the ISM is effectively an early month survey, the figures could have been adversely affected by the recent discretionary spending cuts,” explained Deutsche Bank’s Joe LaVorgna. “In fact, the ISM folks essentially admitted as much in their post-release press conference. We saw the same development in the March University of Michigan consumer sentiment survey.”
  • The major Asian economies also published their March manufacturing PMI reports.  China, South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, and Indonesia all delivered numbers that suggested manufacturing activity was accelerating.
  • However, the improving Asian PMI reports were offset by concerns raised by disappointing Japanese manufacturers’ sentiment and weak South Korean exports.
  • Shares of Apple tumbled by almost 3 per cent today.  Money management behemoth Fidelity reportedly slashed its stake in the iPhone maker.
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