Stocks get pummeled
Wall Street under pressure as Wachovia revives bank sector worries, earnings of Caterpillar, Honeywell and other blue chips disappoint; oil briefly tops $90 a barrel.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Stocks tumbled Friday afternoon after Wachovia became the latest financial services firm to reveal the impact of the summer's credit and mortgage market crisis on its profits.
Earnings from Caterpillar, Honeywell and others also disappointed investors, raising new concerns about weak third-quarter profits.
The Dow Jones industrial average (Charts) lost over 240 points, or 1.8 percent, with 90 minutes left in the session, while the S&P 500 (Charts) index lost 1.8 percent. The Nasdaq composite (Charts) lost 1.8 percent.
Stubbornly high oil prices near records above $90 a barrel added to the day's weakness, as did the dollar, which fell to a new record low against the euro and also slipped versus the yen. Treasury prices surged, as investors sought safety in the comparably safe-haven of bonds.
Stocks have had a tough week as investors digested a batch of weak earnings reports and tried to put into context what the run up in oil prices could mean for consumer spending and the economy.
"We're seeing this kind of selloff because of where oil is and because the banks are reminding people that we have a lot further to go before we get to the bottom of the real estate issue," said John Forelli, portfolio manager at Independence Investments.
Forelli said that this marks a change in thinking from earlier in the month, when a rash of billion-dollar writedowns from big banks seemed to give investors a "the worst is behind us" perception.
The run up in oil prices was also significant in that it revives fears about whether it will drive up inflationary pressures enough to limit the Federal Reserve's ability to cut interest rates further, even if the economic growth deteriorates enough to warrant more cuts.
Market breadth was negative. On the New York Stock Exchange, losers beat winners four to one on volume of 1.10 billion shares. On the Nasdaq, decliners topped advancers three to one on volume of 1.57 billion shares.
Bank of America (Charts, Fortune 500)'s earnings disappointed investors Thursday, and Friday it was Wachovia (Charts, Fortune 500)'s turn. The nation's fourth-largest bank said earnings fell from a year ago, due to the credit market turmoil. Wachovia also said revenue rose slightly from a year ago. Both earnings and revenue were short of forecasts.
Heavy-equipment maker Caterpillar reported that quarterly earnings rose versus a year ago, but results were short of estimates. The company also cut its fiscal 2007 outlook.
Honeywell reported higher quarterly earnings and revenue and boosted its fiscal 2007 outlook. However, earnings were short of estimates and investors took a 'sell the news' response, sending shares lower.
3M shares slumped 6 percent after reporting higher quarterly earnings that topped estimates on higher sales that missed estimates. The company, considered a bellwether for the U.S. economy because of its range of businesses, also raised its fiscal 2007 earnings forecast.
However, investors may have unnerved by news that 3M is cutting prices on its films for LCD television screens, one of its most profitable ventures, AP said.
SanDisk (Charts) reported lower quarterly earnings that topped estimates, but also reported gross margins, a key measure of profitability, that were short of forecasts, sending shares of the flash memory drive maker lower.
With 24 percent of the S&P 500 having reported, earnings are currently on track to have fallen 0.1 percent from the same period a year ago, according to the latest Thomson Financial figures, which combine reported and expected earnings. Even if overall earnings growth ends up a few percentage points higher, as is typical, the third-quarter will still represent the worst quarterly growth in more than 5 years.
Also adding to the stock turmoil Friday: the 20th anniversary of Black Monday, the second biggest market crash in history, when the Dow lost 22.6 percent in a single day for a loss of more than 508 points.
A decline of roughly 23 percent off of Thursday's market close would be equivalent to nearly 3200 points.
The Dow's 508-point loss was the third worst in history. The worst on a point basis was Sept. 17, 2001, when the stock market resumed trading after having been closed for four sessions after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The biggest market crash in history happened on Dec. 12, 1914, when the Dow lost 24 percent, according to Dow Jones indexes. On that day, the New York Stock Exchange reopened after having been closed for most of the previous 3-1/2 months due to increased selling at the onset of World War 1. (See charts for details).
U.S. light crude oil for November delivery briefly hit a record of $90.07 a barrel in electronic trading. Oil fell $1.19 to to $88.28 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange in afternoon trading.
The yearlong run up in oil prices has accelerated over the last few weeks due to supply concerns, the weak dollar and worries about an escalating conflict between Turkey and Kurdish rebels in Iraq.
Treasury prices rallied, lowering the yield on the benchmark 10-year note to 4.40 percent from 4.49 percent late Thursday. Bond prices and yields move in opposite directions.
COMEX gold for December delivery fell 30 cents to $768.40 an ounce.