US STOCKS CRUSHED: Here's what you need to know

Stocks had a fifth straight day of declines on Monday. Biotechs got smacked again, and the iShares Nasdaq Biotechnology ETF fell by as much as 6%; last week was the worst for the sector in four years.

First, the scoreboard:

  • Dow: 16,001.26, -313.41, (-1.92%)
  • S&P 500: 1,881.08, -50.26, (-2.60%)
  • Nasdaq: 4,541.03, -145.46, (-3.10%)

And now, the top stories on Monday:

  1. Commodities also had a bad day. Here’s the rundown: Gold fell more than 1% to as low as $US1,127.50 an ounce, a one-week low and its biggest drop in two weeks. Silver dropped 3%, or $US0.56 an ounce, to $US14.470. Platinum fell more than 3% to new lows, and palladium also fell 3%. West Texas Intermediate crude oil futures in New York wiped away last week’s gains, falling more than 2% to around $US44.31 per barrel.
  2. Aluminium giant Alcoa is splitting into two public companies. The Upstream Company will be involved in bauxite mining, alumina refining and aluminium production. It earned $US13.2 billion in revenues in the year ended June 30. The Value-Add Company will provide products for aerospace and other industrial clients. Its sales totaled $US14.5 billion during the 12 months through June-end.
  3. Shares of Valeant Pharmaceuticals tumbled 15%. Democrats on the US House Oversight and Government Reform Committee asked their chairman, US Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) to subpoena the company in relation to drug price hikes. Just this morning, Valeant CEO Mike Pearson sent a reassuring letter to employees in response to a drop in shares last week.
  4. Whole Foods is cutting 1,500 jobs, or about 1.6% of its workforce, over the next two months. The health food chain is working to lower grocery prices and upgrade its technology. Earlier this year, Whole Foods’ co-CEOs apologised for overpricing prepackaged foods. The company said it has offered them “several options” including a severance package.
  5. In economic data, personal income rose 0.3% in August (0.4% expected), while spending rose 0.4% (0.3% expected). “Stronger-than-expected growth in real personal spending in August and upward revisions to prior months’ data suggest a faster pace of consumption growth in Q3 than previously estimated,” wrote Barclays economists in a client note. The Department of Commerce also released the personal consumption expenditures (PCE) index, which rose 0.1% month-on-month and 1% year-on-year. Excluding food and energy prices, “core” PCE was 0.1% month-on-month and 1.3% year-on-year.
  6. Manufacturing in Texas was “essentially flat” this month. The Dallas Fed manufacturing activity index read at -9.5, slightly ahead of the forecast for -10, but still in negative territory for a ninth straight month. Survey respondents repeated that uncertainty over oil prices is clouding their business prospects.
  7. Pending home sales fell 1.4% in August, more than the expectation for +0.4%. The National Association of Realtors noted in its report that contract signings are still higher year-over-year, although the possibility of a government shutdown, and stock market volatility, could brake demand.

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