The US stock market is finally falling -- and Apple is to blame

People take photos as a woman tests out a new iPhone X during a media event at Apple’s new headquarters in Cupertino, California on September 12, 2017. Photo: Josh Edelson/ AFP/ Getty Images.
  • The S&P 500 is headed for its biggest drop in more than six weeks
  • Weakness in Apple shares is a big reason for the market-wide decline, which is more pronounced in the tech-heavy Nasdaq index

The S&P 500 dropped early Thursday, putting the index on pace for its biggest loss in more than six weeks, while the more tech-heavy Nasdaq 100 slipped the most since late September.

At the root of the selling was weakness in Apple, which dropped as much as 2.8% on a report that orders for the recently-launched iPhone 8 have been cut for the rest of the year amid lukewarm interest. Since Apple is the most heavily weighted component in the benchmark S&P 500, any sharp fluctuation in the company’s stock can have an outsized impact.

Apple’s loss reverberated through the tech sector, sending an index tracking the group down 0.8%, the most out of any S&P 500 sector. Particularly vulnerable was Apple’s ecosystem of suppliers, as semiconductor companies declined roughly 1%.

But Apple isn’t the only headwind facing the market — there are also some overseas pressures exerting downward influence. The Stoxx Europe 600 headed for its biggest decline in two months as the political crisis in Spain escalated, while dismal earnings reports surfaced from a handful of European companies.

The increased nervousness being felt in markets manifested itself in a sharp increase for the CBOE Volatility Index — or VIX, also known as the stock market fear gauge. It spiked as much as 17%, to more than 11 on an intraday basis, a threshold it hadn’t crossed in almost a month.

That might represent bad news for investors who have made shorting volatility one of the most popular and crowded trades in the market. They’re set to profit from a standstill market, and Thursday’s turbulence threatens a trade that’s been an easy way to make quick returns.

While no one would ever confuse Thursday’s selling with the 1987 market crash — which, by the way, is celebrating its 30-year anniversary — it does look as if investors are at least slightly spooked. And that’s not something you’ve been able to say in a while.

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