All major U.S. stock indexes fell for a second day, with investors pocketing profits from a four-week rally that greeted 2018. Meanwhile, the yields on benchmark government bonds touched highs not seen in nearly four years as caution crept into markets after such a bullish start to year.
The Dow tumbled 362 points, helping send U.S. stocks to the biggest two-day decline since May. The S&P 500 sank 1.1%, bringing the two-day decline in that benchmark index to 1.89%, the most since May 17. The Nasdaq Composite was down 0.9%. The yield on 10-year Treasuries increased three basis points to 2.73%, the highest since April 2014.
Screens flashed red across most asset classes, with investors on edge ahead of a slew of earnings, a U.S. rate decision, the president’s address to Congress and major economic data.
Equities took a series of blows that added to the selling. MetLife headlined a series of disappointing earnings, dampening enthusiasm over tax cuts. News that Amazon.com, JPMorgan Chase and Berkshire Hathaway plan a joint unit that may redefine health-care jolted that sector to the steepest drop in more than a year. Apple, the world’s largest company by market value, sank to a three-month low amid reports of a government inquiry and as concern mounts that its latest iPhone isn’t selling briskly. Energy producers slumped with the price of crude.
“We’ve just had such a huge move in one month, it’s scared people. We had huge flows into equities at the beginning of this year," said Carmel Wellso, director of research at Janus Henderson. “Some people might be saying, ’Wow, I just made 10%, that’s what I wanted to make for this whole year. Maybe I’ll take some money off the table.’"
Investors are weighing whether stronger corporate earnings, a pick-up in economic growth and optimism over U.S. tax cuts can continue driving up prices in markets that recently touched their highest on record. Goldman Sachs predicts a correction is on the horizon, but says any such pullback would be a buying opportunity.
The anxiety spread to Asia and Europe, with euro-zone stocks falling the most since November and Japan’s Topix wiping out gains for the year. Emerging-market stocks tumbled 1.7%, the most in two months. Gold futures lost 0.3% and even Bitcoin joined the selloff, sinking as much as 12% to fall below $10,000 before recovering from the lows of the day.