Stocks continued their selloff mid-afternoon Monday with investors finding little reason to jump back into equities as the risks over oil and earnings persisted.
The S&P 500 was down 2.6%, its worst one-day performance since mid-January, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average slid 2.4%, or 360 points. The tech-heavy Nasdaq fell 3.3% to levels not seen since mid-2014.
Investors instead turned to safe-haven assets such as gold given there was no clear end in sight for the equity selloff. U.S. gold hit its highest level since June on Monday with spot gold climbing as high as $1,201 an ounce over the session. Gold has increased more than 12% since the beginning of the year.
U.S. stocks have been on a downward slide since the beginning of the year on a laundry list of worries. Whether it was oil, the health of the U.S. economy, or a series of weaker earnings across a number of sectors, investors have had more than enough to push them into panic mode. The S&P 500 has fallen more than 10% since the beginning of the year.
A number of disappointing earnings in tech, including Apple (AAPL) and LinkedIn (LNKD) in the past couple of weeks, have pressured the sector. High-momentum tech stocks were among the worst performers on Monday. Industry giants Amazon (AMZN) , Microsoft (MSFT) and Alphabet (GOOGL) traded lower, while the Technology Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLK) slid 2.1%.
Apple is a holding in Jim Cramer's Action Alerts PLUS charitable trust portfolio.
You see Jim Cramer on TV. Now, see where he invests his money and why Apple is a core holding of his multi-million dollar portfolio.
Want to be alerted before Jim Cramer buys or sells AAPL? Learn more now.
"The bottom line is even after Friday's selloff, the market is vulnerable to another period of heightened volatility, following a negative reaction to Friday's employment data, standard expiration less than two weeks away, and the CBOE Market Volatility Index ... pushing higher near the 23.90 area -- double last year's low," Todd Salamone, senior vice president of research at Schaeffer's Investment Research, wrote in a note.
The financials sector was the hardest hit on Monday. Major banks Bank of America (BAC) , JPMorgan (JPM) , Wells Fargo (WFC) , Goldman Sachs (GS) and HSBC (HSBC) were sharply lower. The Financial Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLF) tumbled 3.1%.
Bank of America and Wells Fargo are holdings in Jim Cramer's Action Alerts PLUS charitable trust portfolio.
Yelp (YELP) bounced back from session lows after its earnings report arrived early. The online reviews site posted a surprise profit with adjusted earnings of 11 cents a share beating estimates by 14 cents. Revenue jumped 40%. The company also announced that chief financial officer Rob Krolik would step down in coming months. Shares jumped more than 3%.
Sixty-five S&P 500 companies are set to report earnings this week, including 21st Century Fox (FOXA) after the bell Monday. So far this earnings season, 72% of earnings reports have beaten profit estimates, while sales have only beat 48% of the time. Blended earnings have fallen 3.8% so far this season, dragged on by the energy sector.
Uncertainty over the Federal Reserve's rate hike plans also contributed to downward momentum. Investors are concerned that the Fed will move forward with additional rate hikes following December's move even as the economy shows signs of weakness. Fed Chair Janet Yellen's semi-annual testimony to Congress on Wednesday and Thursday will be closely watched for hints on the central bank's future plans.
"The markets will have their ear to the ground to listen for any clues as to whether Yellen still sees March as the correct timing for the next rate hike," said Chuck Butler, managing director of EverBank Global Markets. "She'll have all of the markets' attention, as the data cupboard is light this week and we have to wait until Friday to see January's retail sales."
Crude oil struggled to hold above $30 a barrel on Monday as oversupply concerns and weaker global growth kept commodity traders at bay. The fresh selloff comes after a meeting between Saudi Arabia and Venezuela over the weekend to discuss possible coordination to cut production, though no future steps were announced to address the problem. West Texas Intermediate crude oil was down 1.5% to $30.43 a barrel on Monday morning. Prices have fallen 21% since the beginning of the year.
Chesapeake Energy (CHK) said it had no plans for bankruptcy after news broke it had hired restructuring attorneys. The oil company said Kirkland & Ellis had been advising it since 2010 and continued to provide guidance on its balance sheet. Shares halved earlier losses to hover around 34% lower.
BioCryst Pharmaceuticals (BCRX) tanked 67% after reporting disappointing mid-stage study results for a highly anticipated drug. The treatment hoped to treat hereditary angioedema attacks, a rare genetic condition that restricts breathing.
Apollo Education Group (APOL) surged 23% on news the company will be taken private by a group of investors. The go-private deal is worth $1.1 billion and values Apollo at a 30% premium above its 30-day average. Tony Miller, CEO of investing company Vistria Group, will become chairman of the board once the deal closes.
Loews (L) fell 1% after swinging to a quarterly loss in the fourth quarter, dragged on by weaker revenue in insurance premiums. Insurance unit CNA Financial Corp., Loew's largest sales contributor, also took down a one-time $178 million charge tied to its long-term care business.
Hasbro (HAS) was 1.2% higher after a better-than-expected quarter driven by sales of its Star Wars and Jurassic World product lines. The toymaker earned $1.39 a share, 9 cents above estimates, while revenue of $1.47 billion exceeded estimates of $1.37 billion.