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US stocks close lower, Dow snaps 9-day winning streak

U.S. stocks closed lower Thursday, snapping the Dow's nine-day winning streak, as oil prices weighed and the market consolidated ahead of next week's Fed meeting.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed nearly half a percent lower as Goldman Sachs led the index down and McDonald's had the most positive impact. The S&P 500 closed down fractionally, and health care and utilities were the only sectors in the green. The Nasdaq fell 16 points.

"We always like to say the market needs to digest its gains, and we've been due for a bit of a pullback," said Quincy Krosby, market strategist at Prudential Financial. "I think the market is on hold waiting to see what that Fed statement is going to say."

The Federal Open Market Committee meets next week, and recent Fed funds futures rates showed an uptick in investors' rate hike expectations, according to the CME Group's FedWatch tool.

U.S. WTI oil futures settled down more than 2 percent, below $45 a barrel. Brent crude oil futures settled down 2.06 percent at $46.20, after hitting a two-month intraday low a day earlier.

"I think the primary move is oil," said Art Cashin, director of floor operations at UBS. "Oil started going down in mid-morning, and that started putting pressure on things."

Second-quarter results came in mixed Thursday.

Southwest Airlines, Sherwin-Williams, and Intel were among the notable disappointments. Shares of Intel fell 4 percent after revenue came in lower than expected. Fellow chipmaker Qualcomm beat Wall Street expectations and issued strong forward guidance, sending the stock up nearly 7 percent.

General Motors posted record second-quarter profits Thursday, sending shares up more than 3 percent. The stock is pacing for its twelfth consecutive positive day for the first time ever.

Ebay spiked more than 10 percent for its best daily performance since October 2015, after posting earnings a penny per share above estimates and raising its full-year sales forecast. Biogen briefly lifted the Nasdaq and S&P, with the stock up more than 6 percent after posting positive results.

Bank results continued to surprise this week, with Morgan Stanley reporting earnings of 75 cents per share versus consensus expectations of 59 cents, according to Thomson Reuters. Morgan Stanley joined Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, and Bank of America on the list of U.S. financial institutions topping second-quarter profit forecasts.

"These numbers are confirming the earning bounce back we were expecting, given flat oil prices and a flat U.S. dollar," said David Kelly, chief global strategist at J.P. Morgan Asset Management. "What we're getting is confirmation that the economy is still growing steadily and earnings are rebounding."

Of the 70 S&P 500 companies reporting as of Wednesday, 67 percent beat estimates, according to Thomson Reuters.

Part of the recent equity rally, Kelly said, has been record-low interest rates around the world. Investors are shifting to U.S. stocks in search of any sort of yield.

"Stocks are the prettiest house in a pretty burnt out neighborhood," he said.

Solid U.S. economic data in recent weeks has also helped investor confidence. The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits fell to a three-month low last week, in a sign that the labor market is stabilizing.

"This is the first indication that job growth in July was also pretty good," J.P. Morgan's Kelly said. "The economic narrative remains the same; the economy isn't growing fast but it's growing fast enough to cause the labor market to tighten."

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits fell by 1,000 to a seasonally adjusted 253,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. Economists polled by Reuters expected claims to rise to 265,000.

Claims are near a 43-year low, hit in mid-April, Reuters reported.

"The better jobs number was a fundamental catalyst when you look at what happened in the market after," said Liz Ann Sonders, chief investment strategist and senior vice president at Charles Schwab. Sonders highlighted the June nonfarm payroll number, which exceeded expectations with a headline figure of 287,000.

"This market rally had more to do with economic sentiment than anything," she said.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed higher Wednesday with nine consecutive days of gains for the first time since 2013. The S&P 500 closed at a new record level and the Nasdaq composite had its highest close of the year.

European stocks moved lower after the European Central Bank left key interest rates unchanged Thursday. The non-move was widely expected but further policy stimulus from global central banks is thought to be coming in the months following June's Brexit vote.

ECB President Mario Draghi said at a press conference that the central bank was ready to act if necessary but officials wanted to "reassess the underlying macroeconomic conditions" and data before making a decision.

The pan-European STOXX 600 closed 0.07 percent lower after fluctuating throughout the trading day. European travel stocks went lower, led by Lufthansa, which cut its full-year profit target as bookings declined due to terrorist attacks and economic uncertainty, the company said. Shares of the airline fell 8 percent after the news.

The German DAX closed roughly 14 points higher, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 ended up half a percent, and France's CAC finished the day down 0.08 percent.

Then yen hit new lows after news that Tokyo was considering a 20 trillion yen package of stimulus to bolster the economy. The currency later recovered 1 percent as Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda told the BBC radio that there is no need for "helicopter money" to fight inflation, and the central bank already had mechanisms in place to ease further if needed.

Although the interview was published Thursday, the BBC said the it was recorded in June. The yen gained 1 percent against the dollar after Kuroda's comments, trading near 106.25 yen.

The dollar was weaker against a basket of currencies after hitting four-month highs Wednesday.

The euro hit a high of $1.1058 against the dollar before losing most of the gains in choppy trade. The euro traded near $1.10, while the British pound fell to $1.32.

"The market can handle a little strength in the dollar but not if it starts to impact other areas that cause financial conditions to tighten," said Sonders of Charlies Schwab. "We've been in this policy loop, at the heart of it is what the dollar is doing."

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City.
Brendan McDermid | Reuters
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City.

Yields on U.S. sovereign bonds fell after moving higher Wednesday with increased expectations of a rate hike. The U.S. 2-year note fell to yield 0.69 percent. The 10-year yield fell to yield 1.56 percent, while the U.S. 30-year note moved slightly higher and yielded 2.29 percent.

Gold settled up 0.9 percent at $1,331.

Symbol
Name
Price
 
Change
%Change
DJIA
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S&P 500
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NASDAQ
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The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed 77.8 points lower at 18,517.2, with Intel as the biggest laggard, and McDonald's leading the gainers.

The Dow Transports closed 1.3 percent lower on its worst day since June 27. Southwest Airlines led the sector down after reporting record quarterly profits but a miss for Wall Street estimates. The stock lost 11.2 percent after earnings, its worst day since 2009.

The S&P 500 closed 7.86 points lower at 5,073.90 with health care and utilities as the only upward trending sectors. Industrials and materials led eight S&P sectors lower.

The VanEck Vectors Semiconductor ETF fell 0.85 percent today, led lower by Intel, which lost 4 percent after earnings. This was the company's worst day since June 24.

The Nasdaq ended the day 16 points lower to 5,073.90 after having its highest close of the year a day earlier.

Russell 2000 small caps closed down 0.50 percent today, tracking for their first weekly loss in four weeks. Small caps are down 4.9 percent from their 52-week high.

The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX), widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, traded near 12.73.

Decliners led advancers on the New York Stock Exchange, with an exchange volume of 810.06 million, and a composite volume of 3.37 billion.

On tap this week:

*Planner subject to change.

Friday:

9:45 PMI Mfg Index Flash

1:00 p.m. Oil Rig Count

Earnings before the bell: General Electric, Honeywell, American Airlines, Moody's, Stanley Black & Decker