A pall spread over the markets as the Trump rally came to a screeching halt on Tuesday, following uncertainty over which of the incoming president's policies were concrete and which were just bluster.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.3%, its fifth session in six in decline. Banks JPMorgan (JPM - Get Report) and Goldman Sachs (GS - Get Report) led the Dow's losses on Tuesday in a pullback following Friday's rally in financial stocks.
The S&P 500 was down 0.3%, and the Nasdaq slid 0.6%. The Volatility Index (VIX.X) increased 6.6%.
President-elect Donald Trump will be inaugurated as the 45th President of the U.S. this Friday. His recent statements on trade policies and foreign relations only highlight the tenuous grasp anyone has on how the next 100 days will play out.
"The question surrounding the financial markets will be whether or not most of his campaign rhetoric regarding trade agreements will actually be implemented," Peter Cardillo, chief market economist, wrote in a note. "We suspect in large part it will be watered down. The mere thought of it, however, will raise the possibilities that trade wars will develop, thus bringing the world financial order closer to protectionism than at any time since the early 1930's."
In an interview Friday with The Wall Street Journal, Trump said the U.S. dollar has become "too strong" and criticized China for what he sees as currency manipulation. Trump noted that U.S. "companies can't compete with [China] now because our currency is too strong and it's killing us."
The U.S. Dollar Index, which measures the strength of the dollar against a basket of six major currencies, was down 1.2% on Tuesday to 100.35.
Equities rallied after Trump's unexpected win in November, as investors placed bets on increased infrastructure spending and a rollback of financial regulations. The run-up over the past two months has left Wall Street vulnerable to a dip, though.
U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday outlined long-awaited plans for Britain's exit from the European Union. The U.K. hopes to gain the greatest access to the European Union without being a member of it, May said in a highly anticipated speech on the country's plans for removal from the bloc. May also said she seeks to avoid a "cliff edge" that could prove disruptive and instead intends for the 'Brexit' to come in phases. The eventual deal would be voted upon in both houses of Parliament. The U.K. voted to exit the regional bloc in June after four decades of participation.
Crude oil prices rose on hopes of a production freeze agreement among the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) would begin to correct a years-long decline in commodities. Saudi Oil Minister Khalid al-Falih reiterated his view that markets would begin to rebalance and stabilize in the first half of this year in response to the agreement that went into effect at the beginning of January.
West Texas Intermediate crude oil was up 0.2% to $52.48 a barrel on Tuesday.
A faster tightening of monetary policy might be needed if Trump's spending plans give the U.S. economy enough of a jolt, Federal Reserve Gov. Lael Brainard said Tuesday morning. Brainard warned that significant fiscal changes could "lead to a more rapid elimination of slack." Brainard also said that the U.S. economy is nearing full employment, a position which could be sustainable if the Fed suitably tinkers its policy.
Business conditions in the New York region weakened in January, according to the latest Empire State Manufacturing Survey. The index fell to 6.5 in January, down from 7.6 in December. Conditions were expected to improve this month.
Walmart (WMT - Get Report) limited losses on the Dow after announcing plans to create roughly 10,000 U.S. jobs this year. The world's largest retailer previously announced plans to open a number of new stores and expand existing locations. Shares rose 1.9%.
Deutsche Bank (DB - Get Report) tumbled 3.2% on Tuesday afternoon after the Justice Department finalized a $7.2 billion settlement tied to a mortgage case. The bank will pony up $3.1 billion in fines and an additional $4.1 billion in relief to homeowners and borrowers. The settlement was over how Deutsche Bank sold residential mortgage-backed securities between 2006 and 2007.
Morgan Stanley (MS - Get Report) fell 3.8% after reporting an 83% surge in quarterly earnings thanks to a year-end boost to trading revenue. Quarterly profit increased to 81 cents a share, up from 39 cents in the same quarter a year earlier and above consensus of 65 cents a share. Sales increased 17% to $9.02 billion, above estimates of $8.47 a barrel.
UnitedHealth (UNH - Get Report) reported adjusted earnings of $2.11 a share in the fourth quarter, topping estimates of $2.07. Quarterly profit rose 56% over the quarter as premiums continued to rise. The largest U.S. health insurer also reported a 9% increase in revenue, above estimates, while backing its forecasts for full-year earnings growth. The stock fell 0.7%.
Tiffany (TIF - Get Report) suffered a weak holiday season as a scrum of protests, media and security around Trump Tower strangled traffic to its flagship Fifth Avenue store. Sales at the Midtown Manhattan store tumbled 14%. Total Tiffany sales fell 4%, when adjusted for currency exchange. Shares fell 2.5%.
J.C. Penney (JCP - Get Report) rose on Tuesday after partnering with sports apparel brand Nike (NKE - Get Report) . The retailer has added in-store Nike stores inside more than 600 of its stores, a move investors hope will draw increased traffic.