Stocks were lower as headlines were dominated by the crash of a Malaysia Airlines flight in Ukraine near the Russian border. All major stock indices closed lower, with the S&P 500 ending its streak of sessions without a 1% move at 62, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq suffered the deepest losses, falling 1.4%.
First, the scoreboard:
- Dow: 16,976.81, -161.4, (-0.9%)
- S&P 500: 1,958.12, -23.4, (-1.1%)
- Nasdaq: 4,363.45, -62.5, (-1.4%)
And now, the top stories of the day:
1) A Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 crashed in eastern Ukraine at about 10:00 ET, with the news first breaking the U.S. at around 11:15 am ET. There were reportedly 295 people on board, including 280 passengers and 15 crew, when it crashed. Twenty-three Americans were on board the flight, which had no survivors. An adviser to the Ukraine Interior Minister said pro-Russian separatists shot down the plane. Following the reports, U.S. and Russian stocks fell as gold rallied and the VIX, or volatility index, surged more than 20%.
2) In economic news, the Department of Labour released its weekly report on initial jobless claims, which showed claims totaled 302,000, less than the 310,000 that was expected by economists. The report said that the 4-week moving average of initial claims is now 309,000, the lowest level for this average since June 2007. Following the report, Pantheon Macro’s Ian Shepherdson said, “In one line: Claims are still trending downwards; a much better guide to the economy right now than housing starts.”
3) On the housing front, housing starts unexpectedly plunged 9.3% to an annualized rate of 893,000; economists were expecting starts to climb 1.9%. Building permits also fell 4.2% to 963,000. Much of the weakness in the report, however, was confined to one region of the country: the South. Housing starts in the South plunged 29.6%, driven by weakness in single-family units. Following the report, Eric Green at TD Securities wrote that, “the report is exceptionally uneven and on balance is not an indication of a significant turn in housing construction.”
4) The Philadelphia Federal Reserve’s latest manufacturing report soundly beat expectations, coming at 23.9 against expectations for a 16.0 reading. In seven of the report’s nine subindices, the report showed improvement. Labour market conditions also showed broad improvement. Following the report, Ian Shepherdson at Pantheon Macro said, “Strong activity components, and another robust selling price reading… the report confirms the improvement in the business sector.”
5) Microsoft announced that it would cut up to 18,000 jobs, including 12,500 at its recently acquired Nokia unit. Shares of the tech giant were trading near 14-year highs following the news, and Microsoft stock finished the day up 1%.
6) Morgan Stanley reported earnings that beat expectations, while the bank’s profit came in at $US1.94 billion for the second quarter, better than the $US980 million reported a year ago. And while the bank beat on the top and bottom line, BI’s Linette Lopez noted that the bank’s shift towards wealth management under CEO James Gorman has bolstered its business.
7) After President Obama last night announced a fresh round of sanctions against Russian companies, stocks in Russia took a beating as the ruble weakened considerably against the U.S. dollar. In U.S. trade, the RSX exchange-traded fund that tracks Russia fell more than 7%. Beyond today’s initial move, Citi highlighted stocks that have exposure to Russia and Ukraine, including Pepsi and Avon Products.
8) Also on the geopolitical front, late afternoon headlines said that Israeli forces began a ground operation in Gaza.
9) According to Bespoke Investment Group, the S&P 500’s more than 1% decline marked the first time in 62 trading sessions that the benchmark index logged a move greater than 1%.