The day, month and quarter have come to a close, and it looks like all of Wall Street's windows were dressed some other day.
Quarter-end window-dressing, in which money managers buy up the period's best-performing stocks to have them on their books, yielded to the crushing weight of a major earnings warning.
fourth-quarter confession helped to knock the market down hard, sending all major indices firmly lower.
Apple's stock price has been halved, ending down $27.75, or 51.9%, to $25.75. That shaved more than half off the company's $17.4 billion market capitalization. Computer boxmakers were weak in sympathy with Apple, as the company said in its release that revenues would fall short of expectations due to slowing in demand in all markets.
, the parent of
, also issued an earnings warning today, hurting transportation and airline stocks. UAL was down 4.6%.
Earnings growth this quarter is still expected to be reasonably strong, but after high-profile warnings by companies such as
and others, market participants have grown increasingly gloomy in the last few weeks.
Perhaps it's gone too far -- and those companies that have warned of earnings issues are the few-and-far-between, and earnings will look strong in the third quarter. But the market isn't thinking that way now. Investors are thinking more about the possibility of a broad-based economic slowdown, and they're aggressively revaluing companies that had price-to-earnings ratios based on loftier growth rates than what appears likely to happen in the next couple quarters.
One stock performing particularly well today was
. The brokerage gained 12% on takeover speculation.
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As the market sagged late in the day, fiber-optics stocks, which were bucking the trend set by the rest of technology, fell into the red.
was down 2.8%, while
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Treasuries were stronger thanks to slumping stocks and the calendar, which traditionally favors the Treasury market on the last business day of the quarter. But they shed that strength by the close.
Pressure to own safe, liquid assets for appearance's sake often prompts buying of Treasuries by portfolio managers, who report their holdings on the last day of the quarter, bond market analysts say.
The day's most important economic indicator, the
Chicago Purchasing Managers' Index
chart ), was stronger than expected. It rose to 51.4 in September from 46.5 in August, indicating renewed expansion in the manufacturing sector.
The benchmark 10-year
Treasury note was down 1/32 at 99 19/32, edging its yield up to 5.804%.
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