U.S. stocks were sharply lower in afternoon trading Thursday as investors sold off shares in technology and most other sectors in favor of banks and energy companies. Utilities, real estate companies and other high-dividend stocks also fell as bond yields rose.
KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 20 points, or 0.8 percent, to 2,420 as of 2:30 p.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones industrial average slid 153 points, or 0.7 percent, to 21,302. The Nasdaq composite lost 105 points, or 1.7 percent, to 6,128. The Russell 2000 index of small-company stocks gave up 16 points, or 1.2 percent, to 1,408. The stock market was coming off its biggest gain in two months.
THE QUOTE: "European shares were down and that’s certainly giving a little bit of pause for concern," said Eric Wiegand, a senior portfolio manager with Private Wealth Management at U.S. Bank. "Investors, ourselves included, are anxious to get into earnings season a couple of weeks from now."
ECONOMIC SNAPSHOT: The Commerce Department said that the nation’s gross domestic product, the broadest measure of economic health, increased at an annual rate of 1.4 percent in the first quarter. That’s better than the previous estimate of 1.2 percent and double the initial estimate of 0.7 percent. The upgrade reflects new-found strength in consumer spending and exports.
TECH SLIDE: Technology companies continued to slide, led by semiconductor manufacturers. Advanced Micro Devices was the biggest decliner in the S&P 500, tumbling 70 cents, or 5.3 percent, to $12.53. Lam Research lost $7.08, or 4.8 percent, to $140.75. Digital storage company Seagate Technology fell $1.69, or 4.2 percent, to $38.49.
PARED DEAL: Rite Aid slumped 29.5 percent after Walgreens Boots Alliance abandoned a bid to buy the rival drugstore chain following resistance from U.S. regulators. Walgreens will now buy more than 2,000 stores, three distribution centers and inventory in a new deal. Rite Aid fell $1.16 to $2.77. Walgreens gained $1.16, or 1.5 percent, to $78.25. The termination of the Rite Aid buyout canceled a related asset deal involving Fred’s Pharmacy. Shares in Fred’s slid $2.92, or 23.7 percent, to $9.40.
DONE DEAL: Staples rose 1.6 percent after private equity firm Sycamore Partners agreed to buy the office supplies chain for $6.9 billion. Staples gained 16 cents to $10.09.
ILLUMINATING RESULTS: Acuity Brands jumped 7.2 percent after the lighting company’s latest quarterly earnings and sales exceeded Wall Street’s expectations. Its shares gained $12.96 to $192.69.
BANKS BOUNCE: Financial sector stocks surged after the Federal Reserve said 34 of the biggest U.S. banks can buy back more stock and raise their dividends because their balance sheets are strong enough to bear a major downturn in the economy. The Fed’s announcement Wednesday afternoon marks the first time that all of the banks have passed their so-called stress tests, which were created after the global financial crisis of 2008.
Citigroup was up $2.08, or 3.2 percent, to $67.26, while JPMorgan Chase rose $1.56, or 1.7 percent, to $91.38. Bank of America gained 45 cents, or 1.9 percent, to $24.33.
BOND YIELDS: Bond prices fell. The 10-year Treasury yield rose to 2.27 percent from 2.23 percent late Wednesday.
CURRENCIES: The dollar fell to 111.93 yen from 112.28 yen late Wednesday. The euro strengthened to $1.1444 from $1.1382. The British pound rose to $1.3009 from $1.2929. European currency markets have been volatile in recent days after leading central bankers appeared to hint at a turn in monetary policy soon.
ENERGY: Oil prices were headed higher despite paring some early gains. Benchmark U.S. crude was up 12 cents at $44.86 a barrel in New York. Brent, the international standard, was up 6 cents at $47.60 in London.
METALS: Gold fell $3.30 to settle at $1,245.80 per ounce. Silver slipped 14 cents to $16.65 per ounce. Copper gained 2 cents to $2.70 per pound.
MARKETS OVERSEAS: Major stock indexes in Europe veered lower. Germany’s DAX fell 1.8 percent, while the CAC 40 in France slid 1.9 percent. The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares lost 0.5 percent. In Asia, Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 index rose 0.5 percent, while South Korea’s Kospi gained 0.6 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng added 1.1 percent. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 climbed 1.1 percent.