Stocks End in Deep Rut

The Dow ends 283 points in the hole. Investors scrambled on a mix of earnings, labor numbers and worse-than-expected housing data.
Author:
Publish date:

Updated from 3:14 p.m. EDT

U.S. stocks spent the entire day in a heavy downtrend ending the session with large losses as investors absorbed worse-than-expected data concerning the beaten housing market.

The

Dow Jones Industrial Average

finished down 283 points at 11,349, while the

S&P 500

dropped 29 points to 1252. The

Nasdaq

gave up 45 points to 2280.

The National Association of Realtors reported that existing-home sales declined 2.6% to 4.86 million units in June, falling short of economists' expectations for 4.95 million units. Median single-family home prices fell 6.1% year over year in June.

"We still think home sales have some way yet to fall, but they are not going to keep dropping at the June pace," wrote Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics, in an email. He predicted further price drops for U.S. homes.

"The market cannot heal until the housing market heals," said Michael Pento, senior market strategist for Delta Global Advisors. He said that rates of homeownership in the U.S. are well above historical norms, so there isn't demand for houses. Furthermore, home-to-price ratios are too high, meaning homes are overvalued in historical terms.

The financial sector suffered following the report, as concern mounted over the possibility of additional mortgage-related losses for the banks. Dow members

Citigroup

(C) - Get Report

,

AIG

(AIG) - Get Report

and

JPMorgan Chase

(JPM) - Get Report

were all contributing to the index's decline. "Assets held by banks will continue to erode, so I'm not very ebullient on the banking sector," said Pento.

The Labor Department also released jobless claims for the week ended July 19. Initial claims were up 34,000 to 406,000 for the week, and the July 12 figure was revised to 372,000 from 366,000.

"We had the first-time jobless claims well over 400,000 for the first time since 2005," said Pento. "The economy is weak. We're not looking at any second-half rebound."

The downdraft in stocks came as traders sorted through another slew of corporate quarterly reports.

Following the close of Wednesday's trading, online merchant

Amazon.com

(AMZN) - Get Report

beat earnings estimates

on both the top and bottom lines. Shares were jumping 11%.

Elsewhere in technology, chipmaker

Qualcomm

(QCOM) - Get Report

matched analyst expectations

despite a decline in third-quarter profit. Qualcomm also

settled a patent dispute

with cell-phone maker

Nokia

(NOK) - Get Report

, sending shares up 19%.

Meanwhile, homebuilder

Ryland

(RYL)

posted a loss that was worse than its year-ago results, while

Pulte Homes

(PHM) - Get Report

narrowed its own loss. Ryland got hammered for 22% of its value, and Pulte dropped 14%.

Before the new day's trading got underway, investors heard quarterly results from another heap of companies.

Dow Chemical

(DOW) - Get Report

reported a 27% drop in profit on rising energy and materials costs. Shares edged down 2.3%.

Farm products maker

Bunge

(BG) - Get Report

and fertilizer seller

Potash

(POT)

, on the other hand, both recorded soaring profits. Bunge climbed 1%, and Potash was up slightly.

In the pharmaceutical space,

Elan

(ELN)

cut its second-quarter loss in half on improving sales of its multiple-sclerosis drug Tysabri.

Eli Lilly

(LLY) - Get Report

announced a 44% increase in second-quarter income, but reduced its full-year earnings outlook.

Celgene

(CELG) - Get Report

likewise saw profits soar on strong sales of its Revlimid blood cancer treatment.

Automaker

Ford

(F) - Get Report

posted a wider-than-expected loss of $8.7 billion on waning demand for its heavy vehicles and hefty impairment charges, dropping the stock 15%.

Consumer-products company

Kimberly-Clark

(KMB) - Get Report

saw second-quarter earnings decline 10% on increasing natural gas, oil and distribution costs.

Among financials,

National City

(NCC)

said it swung to a $1.8 billion loss thanks to an increase in loan-loss reserves and $1.1 billion in writedowns.

On the other hand,

Credit Suisse

(CS) - Get Report

saw earnings fall 62% year over year but nonetheless beat Wall Street estimates.

Outside earnings,

The Wall Street Journal

reported that Kevin Johnson, head of

Microsoft's

(MSFT) - Get Report

Windows and online services segments, will

leave the company

for

Juniper Networks

(JNPR) - Get Report

.

In pursuit of a merger,

XM Satellite Radio

(XMSR)

and

Sirius

(SIRI) - Get Report

said they will pay a $19.7 million penalty to settle Federal Communications Commission rules violations, a move that may push the deal forward.

New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo sued Swiss bank

UBS

(UBS) - Get Report

for allegedly understating the risks involved in auction-rate securities.

Moving over to commodities, crude oil gained $1.05 to close at $125.49 a barrel after falling nearly $7 over the past two days. Gold fell 80 cents to settle at $922.

Treasuries were edging higher. The 10-year note was up 28/32 in price to yield 4.01%, and the 30-year was adding 1-5/32, yielding 4.6%. The dollar was rising against the euro and pound but declining vs. the yen.

Overseas, European exchanges were mostly trading downward. The FTSE in London and the DAX in Frankfurt were both weaker. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei gained, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng declined.