US stocks fall as tech selloff spreads; Dow on track to end year in the red

US stocks tumbled on Tuesday, putting major US indexes at risk of closing below their October lows and wiping out yearly gains. What started as a technology company selloff bled into other corners of the market, as investors dumped shares of everything from retailers to oil-and-gas companies in favor of relatively safe assets such as bonds and reliable dividend payers like utility companies.

The result: Some traders who stepped in to scoop up shares in late October, hoping for a quick rebound, are now in danger of losing those potential profits and more. That puts the stock market in a tenuous position, several said. “The buy-the-dippers are getting concerned,” said Justin Wiggs, managing director in equity trading at Stifel Nicolaus.

According to his calculations, as of this morning about 16 per cent of S&P 500 companies are now below their October lows. Those companies range from tech giants to health-care companies to energy firms.

“Now it’s just let’s sell everything,” he said. In recent trading, the S&P 500 dropped 1 per cent and the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1.4 per cent, or 333 points, both on track to close in the red for the year, while the Nasdaq Composite declined 0.7 per cent. 

The Nasdaq closed Monday below its Oct. 29 low, while the S&P 500 and Dow industrials briefly slipped intraday below their October troughs on Tuesday.

The Nasdaq slumped 3 per cent Monday, closing near a seven-month low, with tech-giant Alphabet slipping into bear-market territory. 

On Tuesday, while the tech sector declined, it was consumer companies and energy firms leading indexes lower. 

Oil-and-gas companies tumbled as the price of U.S.-traded crude oil fell 2 per cent, extending its one-month drop to more than 20 per cent. 

Retailers, recently on the rebound, sunk after Target Corp. said it faced higher costs on supply chain and wages for workers. Shares fell 9.2 per cent. 

Ryan Wibberley, chief executive of Gaithersburg, Md.-based CIC Wealth Management, said he received a client call Monday to buy shares of Apple Inc. He said he agreed to do so, though not without a dose of caution. 

“I’m not convinced it’s over,” he said of the selloff. Apple’s stock ended Monday down 4 per cent, and it is off another 3.6 per cent on Tuesday. Since the start of October, the stock has tumbled more than 20 per cent.

Though Mr. Wibberley, whose firm manages about $600 million, said he expects major indexes to fall further. Mr. Wibberley said he still believes in the health of the U.S. economy. 

Mr. Wibberley is in good company in this belief. Analysts say there is little evidence to support an impending recession. 

Earnings are growing at a solid clip, manufacturing production grew at a solid pace for the fifth consecutive month in October, and the U.S. economy’s growth, while slowing, is still powering ahead at a faster pace than it notched for much of the long-running U.S. expansion since the financial crisis.

Another reason Mr. Wibberley isn’t worried about an imminent recession is the optimism of his clients, many of whom own businesses. 

One of my clients owns a construction company, and he says he has more business on the books, more contracts signed, jobs to be done, than ever before,” he said. 

“I’m not sitting around worried about a recession.”

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