Dow closes nearly 250 points lower as worries about big tech earnings, Fed decision bite

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The Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 closed lower, clinching their worst daily performance in nearly a month on Tuesday as anxieties about a looming Federal Reserve decision and a flurry of big-tech earnings undercut stocks.

What stocks performed
  • The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, -0.71% fell 228.50 points, or 0.7%, to end at 31,761.54, its largest one-day point and percentage decline since June 30, according to Dow Jones Market Data.
  • The S&P 500 SPX, -1.15% shed 45.79 points, or 1.2%, closing at 3,921.05.
  • The Nasdaq Composite COMP, -1.87% lost 220.09 points, or 1.9%, to finish at 11,562.57, ending lower for third straight day.

On Monday, the Dow rose 91 points, or 0.3%, while the S&P 500 ticked up 0.1% and the Nasdaq Composite lost 0.4%.

What drove markets

Stocks opened lower after Walmart Inc. WMT, -7.60% late Monday cut its profit outlook, saying inflation on food had caused it to conduct more markdowns in apparel. Shares fell 7.6% Tuesday, while other retail stocks also sunk. The SPDR S&P Retail ETF XRT, -4.16% closed 4.2% lower.

The retailing giant’s insight into how inflation has been constraining consumption rattled markets by offering more cold, hard evidence that the engine of the U.S. economy — consumer spending — has been constrained by inflation.

“You have this anecdotal data and this view that things are slowing, but until it hits you in the face, then it becomes very clear, and then you have to reassess. I think we’re in ‘reassess’ mode right now,” said Eric Merlis, co-head of global markets at Citizens.

Read: What you need to know about the Fed, earnings and GDP ahead of a busy week for markets

As U.S. stocks fell to lows of the session in afternoon trading, analysts blamed jitters ahead of earnings reports due from some of the biggest American tech companies, many of which were reporting Tuesday, or later in the week.

Investors were awaiting a flurry of reports including Meta Platforms Inc. META and Amazon.com Inc. AMZN among many others in the busiest week of the quarter for corporate earnings.

Alphabet Inc. GOOGL, -2.32% and Microsoft Corp. MSFT, -2.68% reported after the bell on Tuesday, with both companies missing on earnings and revenue targets.

Anxieties ahead of the earnings reports appeared to contribute to Tuesday’s losses, Merlis said.

“There’s concern advertising spending will be much weaker,” he added, in reference to digital advertising heavyweights Alphabet and Meta.

Meta shares fell 4.5% Tuesday, while those of Amazon were down 5.2%. The weakness in megacap tech Tuesday helped drive the Nasdaq to underperform the S&P 500 and the Dow.

Consumer discretionary shares — an S&P 500 sector that’s dominated by Amazon and Tesla Inc. TSLA, -3.57% — were the worst performer among the S&P 500’s 11 sectors, while defensive stocks like health-care and utilities were the only S&P 500 sectors in the green, according to FactSet data. Tesla shares shed 3.6%.

Adding to the gloom outlook, the International Monetary Fund warned Tuesday that the global economy is facing the possibility of a severe downturn that would rank in the bottom 10% of outcomes since 1970.

In an update to its closely-followed World Economic Outlook report, the IMF trimmed its baseline forecast for global economic growth to 3.2% in 2022, 0.4 percentage point lower than in the April report (where it also cut its guidance). In 2023, the IMF projected global output at just 2.9%.

For the U.S., the IMF is projecting 2.3% growth this year, down 1.4 percentage points from the April forecast. For 2023, the IMF is now projecting a slim 1% growth rate, down 1.3 percentage points from April.

Read: Analysts on Walmart’s profit warning: Consumers are buckling under inflation pressure and draining their COVID reserves

See: Big Tech earnings are about to determine the direction of the market

Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve started its two-day interest-rate-setting meeting Tuesday, which is expected to conclude Wednesday with a 75 basis point rate increase as the central bank continues to tighten aggressively in its effort to curb inflation.

In U.S. economic data Tuesday, the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller 20-city index decelerated to a 20.5% year-over-year gain in May down from 21.2% in the previous month. A separate report from the Federal Housing Finance Agency showed a 1.4% monthly gain. And over the last year, the FHFA index was up 18.3%

The Conference Board said its index of consumer confidence fell to 95.7 in July from a revised 98.4 in the previous month.

U.S. new home sales plunged 8.1% to a seasonally-adjusted rate of 590,000 in June, from a revised 642,000 a month earlier, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday.

But key highlights of the weekly economic data calendar arrive in the coming days, as investors will receive the first reading on second-quarter GDP. According to the Atlanta Fed’s GDPNow forecasting tool, the U.S. economy likely contracted for a second consecutive quarter between the beginning of April and the end of June. The GDP report lands Thursday, then an update from the Fed’s preferred inflation measure, the personal consumption expenditure index, is due out Friday morning.

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