October 10, 2018 3:26 pm
Updated: October 10, 2018 3:34 pm

Dow Jones industrials fall 700 points as U.S. stocks face worst loss in 6 months

FILE- In this Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2018, file photo a board above the floor of the New York Stock Exchange shows the Dow Jones industrial average at it reaches 26,793.13 during intraday trading.

AP Photo/Richard Drew, File
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U.S. stocks are plunging toward their worst loss in six months on Wednesday as technology companies continue to take sharp losses. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 700 points in afternoon trading.

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The losses were widespread as bond yields remained high after steep increases last week. Companies that have been the biggest winners on the market the last few years, including technology companies and retailers, suffered steep declines.

The S&P 500 index sank 73 points, or 2.5 per cent, to 2,807 as of 3:30 p.m. Eastern time. It’s on track for its fifth straight drop, which hasn’t happened since right before the 2016 presidential election. Nasdaq composite, which has a high concentration of technology stocks, tumbled 244 points, or 3.2 per cent, to 7,495. It’s fallen 6.3 per cent over the last five days.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gave up 738 points, or 2.8 per cent, to 25,686. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks shed 37 points, or 2.3 per cent, to 1,584.

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Microsoft dropped four per cent to $107.82. Amazon skidded 4.8 per cent to $1,781.21. Industrial and internet companies also fell hard. Boeing lost four per cent to $370.04 and Alphabet, Google’s parent company, gave up 3.2 per cent to $1,109.08.

After a long stretch of relative calm, the stock market has suffered sharp losses over the last week as bond yields surged.

Gina Martin Adams, the chief equity strategist for Bloomberg Intelligence, said investors are concerned about the big increase in yields, which makes it more expensive to borrow money. She said they also fear that company profit margins will be squeezed by rising costs, including the price of oil.

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Paint and coatings maker PPG gave a weak third-quarter forecast Monday, while earlier, Pepsi and Conagra’s quarterly reports reflected increased expenses.

“Both companies highlighted rising costs, not only input costs but increasing operating expenses (and) marketing expenses,” she said.

Insurance companies dropped as Hurricane Michael continued to gather strength and came ashore in Florida bringing winds of up to 155 miles an hour. Berkshire Hathaway dipped 4.1 per cent to $214.64 and re-insurer Everest Re slid 4.6 per cent to $218.97.

Luxury retailers tumbled. Tiffany plunged 9.5 per cent to $111.28 and Ralph Lauren fell 7.3 per cent to $118.42.

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The biggest driver for the market over the last week has been interest rates, which began spurting higher following several encouraging reports on the economy. Higher rates can slow economic growth, erode corporate profits and make investors less willing to pay high prices for stocks.

The 10-year Treasury yield rose to 3.22 per cent from 3.20 per cent late Tuesday after earlier touching 3.24 per cent. It was at just 3.05 per cent early last week.

Technology and internet-based companies are known for their high profit margins, and many have reported explosive growth in recent years, with corresponding gains in their stock prices. Adams, of Bloomberg Intelligence, said investors have concerns about their future profitability, too.

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That’s helped make technology stocks more volatile in the last few months.

“As stocks go up, tech goes up more than the stock market. As stocks go down, tech goes down more than the stock market,” she said.

Sears Holdings nosedived after the Wall Street Journal reported that the struggling retailer hired an advisory firm to prepare a bankruptcy filing that could come within days. The stock fell 15 per cent to 50 cents. It was more than $40 five years ago.

Sears has closed hundreds of stores and sold several famous brands or put them on the block as it sees more customers abandon its stores.

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The Justice Department approved CVS’ purchase of health insurer Aetna. Aetna intends to sell its Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit unit to complete the $69 billion acquisition.

CVS dipped 0.1 per cent to $79.40 and Aetna added 0.5 per cent to $204.64.

Defense and aerospace parts supplier Esterline Technologies rallied after it agreed to be bought by TransDigm for $122.50 per share in cash, or $3.61 billion. Esterline climbed 30.6 per cent to $115.97 while TransDigm slipped 2.9 per cent to $341.20.

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Benchmark U.S. crude oil fell 2.4 per cent to $73.17 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the international standard, lost 2.2 per cent to $83.09 a barrel in London.

Wholesale gasoline shed 2.7 per cent to $2.02 a gallon. Heating oil fell 1.2 per cent to $2.39 a gallon. Natural gas rose 0.6 per cent to $3.28 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Gold rose 0.2 per cent to $1,193.40 an ounce. Silver dipped 0.5 per cent to $14.33 an ounce. Copper fell 0.9 per cent to $2.78 a pound.

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Japan’s Nikkei 225 added 0.2 per cent, South Korea’s Kospi dropped 1.1 per cent and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong gained 0.1 per cent.

The CAC 40 in France dropped 2.1 per cent, Germany’s DAX lost 2.2 per cent and the FTSE 100 in London fell 1.3 per cent.

Stocks from emerging markets were also hard hit. Investors see many of these countries as being vulnerable to higher U.S. interest rates, which can pull away investment dollars. Brazil’s Bovespa lost 2.5 per cent and the Merval in Argentina sank 2.2 per cent.

The dollar fell to 112.59 Japanese yen from 113.05 yen late Tuesday. The euro rose to $1.1525 from $1.1496. The British pound rose to $1.3197 from $1.3146.

© 2018 The Canadian Press

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