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Stocks Fall Sharply On Concerns About Global Economic Outlook - U.S. Commentary


Stocks moved sharply lower over the course of the trading session on Tuesday, partly offsetting the rally seen last week. With the sell-off on the day, the major averages pulled back after ending last Friday's trading at their best closing levels in well over a month.

The major averages ended the day off their lows of the session but still firmly in negative territory. The Dow tumbled 301.87 points or 1.2 percent to 24,404.48, the Nasdaq plunged 136.87 points or 1.9 percent to 7,020.36 and the S&P 500 slumped 37.81 points or 1.4 percent to 2,632.90.

The pullback on Wall Street reflected concerns about the global economy after the International Monetary Fund said the global expansion is weakening at a rate that is somewhat faster than expected.

The IMF lowered its forecasts for global economic growth to 3.5 percent in 2019 and 3.6 percent in 2020, 0.2 and 0.1 percentage points below last October's projections.

An escalation of trade tensions and a worsening of financial conditions are key sources of risk to the outlook, the IMF said.

The IMF also expressed concerns about a bigger than expected slowdown in Chinese growth, the Brexit cliffhanger, and the ongoing U.S. government shutdown.

In remarks at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Monday, IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde noted risks to the global economy are increasingly intertwined.

"Think of how higher tariffs and rising uncertainty over future trade policy fed into lower asset prices and higher market volatility," Lagarde said. "This in turn contributed to tightening financial conditions, including for advanced economies, which is a major risk factor in a world of high debt burdens. "

"Does that mean that a global recession is around the corner? The answer is 'no,'" she added. "But the risk of a sharper decline in global growth has certainly increased."

Adding to the economic worries, the National Association of Realtors released a report showing a much steeper than expected drop in U.S. existing home sales in the month of December.

NAR said existing home sales plummeted by 6.4 percent to an annual rate of 4.99 million in December after jumping by 2.1 percent to a revised rate of 5.33 million in November.

Economists had expected existing home sales to slump by 1.3 percent to a rate of 5.25 million from the 5.32 million originally reported for the previous month.

With the much bigger than expected decrease, existing home sales tumbled to their lowest level since November of 2015.

Sector News

Oil service stocks showed a substantial move to the downside on the day, with the Philadelphia Oil Service Index plunging by 3.8 percent after ending last Friday's trading at its best closing level in over a month.

Halliburton (HAL) posted a steep loss after reporting fourth quarter earnings that exceeded estimates but disappointing North American revenues.

A sharp drop by the price of crude oil also weighed on the broader energy sector, as crude for February delivery tumbled $1.23 to $52.57 a barrel.

Significant weakness was also visible among semiconductor stocks, as reflected by the 2.9 percent slump by the Philadelphia Semiconductor Index.

Computer hardware, retail, tobacco, and biotechnology stocks also saw considerable weakness, while gold stocks were among the few groups to buck the downtrend.

Other Markets

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region moved lower during the trading session on Tuesday. Japan's Nikkei 225 Index fell by 0.5 percent, while China's Shanghai Composite Index tumbled by 1.2 percent.

The major European markets also moved to the downside. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index slumped by 1 percent, the German DAX Index and the French CAC 40 Index both dropped by 0.4 percent.

In the bond market, treasuries rebounded strongly after trending lower over the past few sessions. As a result, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, dropped by 5.4 basis points to 2.730 percent.

Looking Ahead

Earnings news is likely to be in focus on Wednesday amid a quiet day on the U.S. economic front, with Capital One (COF), IBM Corp. (IBM), and TD Ameritrade (AMTD) among the companies releasing their quarterly results after the close of today's trading.

Abbott Labs (ABT), Comcast (CMCSA), Kimberly-Clark (KMB), Procter & Gamble (PG), Progressive (PGR), and United Technologies (UTX) are also among the companies due to report their results before the start of trading on Wednesday.

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