US Markets

Stocks slip as 10-year Treasury yield hits lowest level since 2017

Here's how economic confidence affects the markets

Stocks fell on Wednesday after a closely watch interest rate fell to its lowest level in more than a year as worries over a possible economic slowdown lingered.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended the day down 32.14 points at 25,625.59 and fell as much as 232.46 points. The  declined 0.5 percent to 2,805.37. The Nasdaq Composite closed 0.6 percent lower at 7,643.38 as a 0.9 percent gain in Apple was overshadowed by losses in Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Alphabet.

Health care, utilities and energy were the worst-performing sectors, falling more than half a percent each. Abiomed and Advanced Micro Devices were among the biggest laggards in the S&P 500, sliding more than 3 percent each. Hard disk maker Western Digital also fell 3.6 percent.

The benchmark 10-year rate traded at 2.386 percent and hit its lowest level since Dec. 15, 2017. Investors are keeping an eye on rates after the 10-year fell below the 3-month rate last week for the first time since 2007. It is a development that investors call an inverted yield curve and is seen as an early indicator of a recession.

The U.S. Treasury yield curve has inverted before each recession in the past 50 years and has only offered a false signal just once in that time, according to data from Reuters.

"All eyes are going to be on the Treasury market," said Michael Reynolds, investment strategy officer at Glenmede. "We are seeing a rising probability of recession in recognition of these rising risks, but we're not blowing off the top just yet."

Traders work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange, March 22, 2019.
Brendan McDermid | Reuters

Yields fell on Wednesday after Stephen Moore, who is expected to be nominated to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, called for the central bank to cut rates by half a percentage point. Moore made his remarks in an interview with The New York Times, noting he is not a "dove" or a "sycophant" for President Donald Trump.

Investors have been piling into Treasurys amid the release of weaker-than-expected economic data. The disappointing data have stoked fears that economic growth may be slowing down.

Chinese industrial profit suffered their biggest drop since 2011 in the first two months of the year, falling 14 percent year to date. Data released Tuesday showed consumer confidence slipped for the fourth time in five months.

Wall Street's main indexes registered solid gains in the previous session, but finished below their session highs in a reflection of the underlying concerns about the economic outlook.

"We need global growth to stabilize to help propel stocks higher from here," Tom Essaye, founder of The Sevens Report, said in a note. "The currency and bond markets continue to flash large and bright 'caution' signs on this market, and until bond markets start 'acting' better, I think it'll be hard for stocks to sustainably rally."

Shares of WellCare Health Plans surged more than 12.3 percent after announcing it would sell itself to Centene for $15.27 billion in a cash-and-stock deal. Centene shares, meanwhile, dropped 5 percent.

Boeing rose 1 percent after the company unveiled fixes to its 737 Max planes, which follow two deadly crashes involving the plane in less than six months. 

—CNBC's Sam Meredith contributed to this report.