NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Stocks were trading in the red by mid-afternoon Tuesday as weak trade data prompted worries revised GDP numbers could show the U.S. economy contracted in the first quarter. Crude oil closed above $60 a barrel for the first time since December.
The S&P 500 was down 1.2%, the Dow Jones Industrial Average declined 0.45%, and the Nasdaq tumbled 1.5%.
The U.S. trade deficit jumped to $51.4 billion in March, hitting a six-year high and far wider than an estimated $41.7 billion. Imports increased after the nine-month slowdown at West Coast ports caused a backlog of cargo that is now being cleared.
"The revisions to the trade data will be enough to reduce the real GDP growth rate in Q1 by 0.5 percentage point," Wells Fargo's Jay H. Bryson and Tim Quinlan wrote in a note. "With the preliminary estimate showing that real GDP edged up at an annualized rate of only 0.2% in Q1, revised GDP data could very well show a slightly negative growth rate in the first quarter."
Salesforce.com(CRM) - Get Report shares were briefly halted after volatile trading. The cloud computing company jumped 5% to $75.23 shortly after the pause was lifted. Shares have been on the move over the past week on reports the company has been approached by an unnamed potential acquirer. Bloomberg reported Microsoft(MSFT) - Get Report is evaluating a possible bid for Salesforce.
Crude oil jumped above $60 a barrel for the first time since Dec. 11, 2014. Commodity prices were higher after protesters shut down a Libyan port, temporarily halting exports. Oil prices have plummeted since last summer as markets faced oversupply and weakening demand. West Texas Intermediate crude was up 2.5% to $60.40 a barrel.
"Protests have stopped crude flows to an eastern Libyan port, while the expectation of peaking U.S. production and higher demand for crude to refine into products as we move towards driving season has the bulls on the charge," said Schneider Electric commodity analyst Matt Smith.
The ISM services index climbed to 57.8 in April from 56.5 in March. Economists had expected the reading to remain unchanged month to month. The employment index increased to 56.7 from 56.6, a promising sign ahead of Friday's U.S. jobs report.
Biotech stocks including Gilead Sciences(GILD) - Get Report, Alexion Pharmaceuticals(ALXN) - Get Report, and Amgen(AMGN) - Get Report were all lower, while the Health Care SPDR ETF (XLV) - Get Report slid 1.2%. Apple(AAPL) - Get Report, Baidu(BIDU) - Get Report, Intel(INTC) - Get Report and Google(GOOGL) - Get Report dropped and the Technology SPDR ETF (XLK) - Get Report fell 1.4%.
Netflix(NFLX) - Get Report has urged the Federal Communications Commission to reject the pending merger of AT&T(T) - Get Report and DirecTV (DTV) unless competitive concerns are addressed. The $48 billion merger would see the second-largest U.S. wireless carrier and the largest U.S. satellite-TV company combine.
Netflix was 2.4% higher after Bank of America upgraded shares to buy from underperform. Analysts said a strong portfolio of original content will fuel an enormous international opportunity.
Walt Disney(DIS) - Get Report gave up earlier gains. The world's largest entertainment company reported second-quarter earnings of $1.23 a share, up from $1.11 a year earlier. Revenue surged 7% to $12.46 billion. The better-than-expected results stemmed from a 24% increase in operating income at Walt Disney Parks due to higher ticket prices.
Sprint(S) - Get Report was 4.9% lower after missing earnings estimates in its recent quarter. The telecom company said it had added 1.2 million net new customers over the quarter, its biggest increase in almost three years.
UBS(UBS) - Get Report added 4.9% after reporting first-quarter profit nearly double a year earlier. The Swiss bank earned 1.98 billion Swiss francs ($2.12 billion), an increase from 1.05 billion francs a year earlier.
Panera Bread (PNRA) is the latest company to announce measures to remove artificial sweeteners and flavors from its products. The move follows Pepsi's(PEP) - Get Report decision to cut artificial sweeteners from its sodas and Chipotle's(CMG) - Get Report removal of genetically-modified ingredients from its menu.
Chicago Federal Reserve President Charles Evans is toeing the Fed's party line that weakness in the first quarter was merely transitory. In a speech on Monday, Evans said the risks associated with hiking interest rates too soon outweigh those of delaying any move until 2016.
"I likely will not feel confident enough to begin to raise rates until early next year," he said in remarks to the Columbus Economic Development Board.
The European Union increased its 2015 growth and inflation forecasts as the region's economic recovery gains traction amid monetary stimulus from the European Central Bank. Europe's growth forecast has been raised to 1.5% from 1.3%.