Wall Street gets walloped
Major gauges slump in broad-based stock selloff, led by tech-heavy Nasdaq, amid worries about earnings, economy.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Stocks slumped Wednesday, with tech-sector woes spreading to the broader market, amid concerns about corporate profit growth, geopolitical tensions and the mix of higher inflation and slower economic growth.
The Nasdaq composite (down 38.62 to 2,090.24, Charts) tumbled about 1.8 percent. The Dow Jones Industrial average (down 121.59 to 11,013.18, Charts) and the broader Standard & Poor's 500 (down 13.92 to 1,258.60, Charts) index both lost around 1 percent.
Bonds were little changed on the session, and the dollar surged after the trade deficit rose less than expected for May.
Oil, gas and gold prices rose.
"We're continuing to see weakness in the Nasdaq and semiconductors and that sucking sound is now taking hold of the broader market," said Steven Goldman, market strategist at Weeden & Co.
Thursday is not expected to bring much relief, with little economic news and few market-moving earnings reports on tap.
As of 5:45 p.m. ET, Nasdaq and S&P futures pointed to a flat open Thurday, when fair value is taken into account.
Stocks began Wednesday on a murky note, with techs opening weaker and the blue-chip averages little changed. But the tone soon turned negative, with the Nasdaq resuming the downward pull on the broader market it has exerted in recent days.
"The market in general is just giving it back," said Tom Schrader, managing director of U.S. equity trading at Legg Mason. "I'm surprised it didn't happen earlier, what with all the geopolitical events over the last few days."
Stocks managed a late-session comeback Tuesday, after improved profit guidance from chipmaker KLA-Tencor brought out the bulls, following a tough morning.
But that brief recovery proved unsustainable Wednesday. A few companies have reported their second-quarter results, but the period of confessionals doesn't really heat up until later in the month, and investors may be nervous about that.
"We're selling into the earnings and I think it's likely to continue," Schrader added.
Microsoft, Dell, Apple under pressure
Microsoft (down $0.46 to $22.64, Charts) was fined $357 million by European regulators for failing to abide by a previous antitrust ruling pertaining to its Windows operating system. That sent shares down by about 2 percent.
The drop was felt across the tech sector as well as in the broader market. Microsoft is one of the Dow's 30 components and is also the third-heaviest-weighted Nasdaq stock.
Brokerage UBS cut its second-quarter earnings and revenue estimates on Dell, as well as the PC-maker's 12-month price target, citing a further slowdown in sales. Dell (down $1.04 to $22.38, Charts) shares fell more than 4 percent.
Credit Suisse First Boston speculated that Apple could warn that its fourth-quarter profit and revenue will miss forecasts. Apple Computer (down $2.69 to $52.96, Charts) shares lost close to 5 percent.
Yet the declines were broader than tech, with 27 out of the 30 Dow components falling.
Homebuilders, retailers and financial stocks were also among the big decliners.
In earnings news, Genentech (down $3.08 to $80.98, Charts) reported quarterly results late Tuesday that rose from a year ago and beat estimates, thanks to strong sales of its colon cancer treatment Avastin.
But analysts were expecting even stronger sales of the drug, and the stock slipped Wednesday.
Secure Computing (down $3.08 to $4.99, Charts) slumped 38 percent in unusually active Nasdaq trade after warning late Tuesday that second-quarter earnings will miss forecasts. The computer network security software provider also said it will buy smaller security firm CipherTrust for about $274 million.
Market breadth was negative. On the New York Stock Exchange, decliners beat advancers eleven to five on volume of 1.47 billion shares. On the Nasdaq, losers topped winners by more than three to one as 1.8 billion shares changed hands.
Investors also eyed the May trade deficit, which grew from the previous month but was nonetheless narrower than expected.
U.S. light crude oil for August delivery rose 84 cents to settle at $75 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Oil was volatile through the morning, following the release of the government's weekly inventory report, which showed a surprisingly large decline in crude oil stockpiles last week.
COMEX gold for August delivery added $7.40 to settle at $650.50 an ounce.
Treasury prices ended mostly flat, after having slipped through the early afternoon. The yield on the benchmark 10-year note stood at 5.10 percent, little changed from late Tuesday. Bond prices and yields move in opposite directions.
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