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Wednesday December 12th, 2018 2:30AM

Stocks tumble as technology downturn gets worse

By The Associated Press
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NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are taking steep losses Wednesday as technology companies like Microsoft and Nvidia are hammered. Industrial companies, internet firms and retailers are all falling sharply. The S&P 500 is on track for its biggest loss since April as well as its fifth consecutive decline.

Bond yields headed slightly higher. Treasury yields have jumped over the last week, which has weighed on stocks around the world. The 10-year Treasury note hasn't been this high in seven years.

The rise in rates is weighing particularly heavily on areas of the market that had earlier been the biggest winners.

KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 fell 39 points, or 1.4 percent, at 2,841 as of 1:25 p.m. Eastern time. The benchmark U.S. stock index hasn't suffered a five-day losing streak since November 2016, just before the presidential election.

The technology-heavy Nasdaq composite dropped 140 points, or 1.8 percent, to 7,561. It's fallen 5.8 percent over the last five days.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gave up 361 points, or 1.4 percent to 26,068. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks lost 17 points, or 1.1 percent, to 1,604.

WINNERS AREN'T WINNING: Tech stocks and companies that sell non-essentials to consumers have been some of the top performers over the last year, nearly doubling the performance of the S&P 500. They've also dropped more than the rest of the market so far this month.

In technology, Microsoft dropped 3.1 percent to $108.76 Wednesday and Nvidia lost 4.6 percent to $253.32. In retail, Amazon sank 3.6 percent to $1,803 and Nike gave up 4.4 percent to $76.87.

DOWN DAY: Boeing shed 3.3 percent to $372.58 and 3M fell 2.2 percent to $205.77. Insurance companies slumped as Hurricane Michael continued to get stronger as it neared the Florida coast. Berkshire Hathaway fell 3.6 percent to $215.73 and Progressive slid 3 percent to $69.69. Among internet companies, Alphabet, Google's parent company, slid 2.3 percent to $1,118.79.

YIELDS: The biggest driver for the market over the last week has been interest rates, which began spurting higher following several encouraging reports on the economy. Higher rates can slow economic growth, erode corporate profits and make investors less willing to pay high prices for stocks.

The 10-year Treasury yield rose to 3.22 percent from 3.20 percent late Tuesday after earlier touching 3.24 percent. It was at just 3.05 percent early last week.

THE QUOTE: Gina Martin Adams, the chief equity strategist for Bloomberg Intelligence, said investors fear that company profit margins will be squeezed by rising costs, including the price of oil. Paint and coatings maker PPG gave a weak third-quarter forecast Monday, while earlier, Pepsi and Conagra's quarterly reports reflected increased expenses.

"Both companies highlighted rising costs, not only input costs but increasing operating expenses (and) marketing expenses," she said.

Adams said those worries are affecting technology and consumer-focused companies as well even though companies like Alphabet, Amazon and Facebook have long had very high profit margins. That's helped make technology stocks more volatile in the last few months.

"As stocks go up, tech goes up more than the stock market. As stocks go down, tech goes down more than the stock market."

SEARED: Sears Holdings nosedived after the Wall Street Journal reported that the struggling retailer hired an advisory firm to prepare a bankruptcy filing that could come within days. The stock fell 34 percent to 39 cents. It was more than $40 five years ago.

Sears has closed hundreds of stores and sold several famous brands or put them on the block as it sees more customers abandon its stores.

DEALS: The Justice Department approved CVS' purchase of health insurer Aetna. Aetna intends to sell its Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit unit to complete the $69 billion acquisition.

CVS rose 0.9 percent to $80.20 and Aetna added 1.3 percent to $206.37.

Defense and aerospace parts supplier Esterline Technologies rallied after it agreed to be bought by TransDigm for $122.50 per share in cash, or $3.61 billion. Esterline climbed 29.6 percent to $115.04 while TransDigm slipped 2 percent to $344.03.

MARKETS ABROAD: Japan's Nikkei 225 added 0.2 percent, South Korea's Kospi dropped 1.1 percent and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong gained 0.1 percent.

The CAC 40 in France dropped 2.1 percent, Germany's DAX lost 2.2 percent and the FTSE 100 in London fell 1.3 percent.

Stocks from emerging markets were also hard hit. Investors see many of these countries as being vulnerable to higher U.S. interest rates, which can pull away investment dollars. Brazil's Bovespa lost 2.3 percent and the Merval in Argentina sank 2.8 percent.

COMMODITIES: Benchmark U.S. crude oil fell 2.2 percent to $73.30 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the international standard, lost 1.8 percent to $83.50 a barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: The dollar fell to 112.67 Japanese yen from 113.05 yen late Tuesday. The euro rose to $1.1538 from $1.1496. The British pound rose to $1.3209 from $1.3146.

____

AP Markets Writer Marley Jay can be reached at http://twitter.com/MarleyJayAP His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/marley%20jay

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Business, AP Business - Economy, AP Business - Financial Markets, AP Business - Industries, AP Business - Utilities
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