Market Wrap: Stocks Drop as 3Q Earnings Season Kicks Off

Dow Jones Industrial Average Rises Sharply
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

By Noel Randewich

NEW YORK -- U.S. stocks fell Tuesday, ending a five-day winning streak, as investors focused on upcoming quarterly reports that are expected to reflect a drop in corporate earnings.

A surge in DuPont's stock helped keep the Dow Jones industrial average in positive territory but the S&P 500 and Nasdaq lost ground, with a sharp drop in biotech stocks.

The S&P health index lost 2.3 percent, the worst performer among the 10 major S&P sectors. The sector has been under intense scrutiny over high drug prices. The Nasdaq biotechnology index ended down 3.8 percent, recovering from deeper losses of around 6.6 percent.

The S&P 500 index had gained 5.6 percent over the previous five sessions, its best five-day run since 2011, after a weak U.S. jobs report hinted at economic weakness but also lowered expectations the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates this year.

%VIRTUAL-pullquote-It's been a while since we've gone into earnings season with the bar set so low, and that typically works to the advantage of stocks.%The International Monetary Fund cut its global growth forecasts for a second time this year, citing weak commodity prices and a slowdown in China.

Underscoring concerns about the world economy, S&P 500 companies are expected to report a 4.2 percent fall in earnings in upcoming third-quarter reports, the biggest decline in six years, according to Thomson Reuters data.

"It's been a while since we've gone into earnings season with the bar set so low, and that typically works to the advantage of stocks," said Chuck Carlson, chief executive officer at Horizon Investment Services in Hammond, Indiana.

Stock reactions to quarterly results over the next few weeks may provide signs of whether the equity market has hit rock bottom after over a month of global financial turbulence, Carlson said.

The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) edged up 0.1 percent to end at 16,790.19 points. The Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GSPC) lost 0.4 percent to 1,979.92 and the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) dropped 0.7 percent to finish the day at 4,748.36.

Seven of the 10 major S&P sectors ended lower. The energy index was up 2.2 percent, leading the advancers, after crude oil prices jumped.

In company news:

  • DuPont (DD) rose 7.7 percent after CEO Ellen Kullman said she would step down.

  • Pfizer (PFE) and Merck (MRK) were down 2.1 percent and 2.8 percent, respectively, both the biggest drags on the S&P health index.

  • PepsiCo (PEP) rose 1.3 percent after it reported better-than-expected quarterly results and raised its forecast for the year.

  • After the bell, shares of Yum Brands (YUM) dropped 16 percent. The restaurant operator reported third-quarter results, including trouble in its key China operation, that disappointed investors.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by 1,675 to 1,357. On the Nasdaq, 1,554 issues fell and 1,233 advanced.

The S&P 500 index showed six new 52-week highs and one new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 34 new highs and 44 lows.

About 7.6 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, just above the 7.4 billion average for the previous 20 sessions, according to Thomson Reuters (TRI) data.

-Abhiram Nandakumar and Tanya Agrawal contributed reporting.

What to watch Wednesday:

  • The Federal Reserve releases consumer credit data for August at 3 p.m. Eastern time.

Originally published