U.S. stocks fell, sending the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index down a second day, on concern the best first-quarter since 1998 has outpaced economic prospects and as Baker Hughes Inc. drove a selloff in energy shares.
Baker Hughes, the world’s third-largest oilfield-services provider, tumbled 5.8 percent after saying that a shift away from gas rigs will hurt earnings. Morgan Stanley (MS) and Fifth Third Bancorp dropped at least 1.7 percent to pace losses in financial companies. Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPQ) slumped 2.2 percent for the biggest decline in the Dow Jones Industrial Average.
The S&P 500 slipped 0.2 percent to 1,402.89 at 4 p.m. New York time. The Dow retreated 45.57 points, or 0.4 percent, to 13,124.62. About 6.1 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, or 7.9 percent below the three-month average.
“People won’t play real hard at these levels,” said Jeffrey Saut, chief investment strategist at Raymond James & Associates in St. Petersburg, Florida, which oversees more than $300 billion. “I don’t think you should get bearish. Yet the market’s energy seems to be used up after the strong rally.”
The S&P 500 has rallied 12 percent this year amid better- than-estimated economic and corporate data. More than $3.6 trillion was restored to U.S. equity values since last year’s low for the benchmark gauge in October. The rally drove the index to about 14.6 times reported earnings this week, the highest valuation level since July.
Data today showed purchases of previously owned U.S. houses dropped 0.9 percent to a 4.59 million annual rate from a revised 4.63 million pace in January that was faster than previously estimated. The median forecast in a Bloomberg News survey called for a rise to 4.61 million.
“The housing situation is not a quick turnaround,” Hank Smith, chief investment officer at Haverford Trust Co. in Radnor, Pennsylvania, said in a telephone interview. His firm manages about $6.5 billion. “In addition, the stock market had an almost one-way ride. It’s due for a pause.”
Energy shares in the S&P 500 slumped 1 percent for the biggest decline among 10 groups.
Baker Hughes (BHI) tumbled 5.8 percent to $45.04. North American first-quarter profit margin will drop to as low as 13.2 percent from 18.7 percent because of lower prices, higher costs and supply shortages as U.S. operators shift rig locations, the company said. Companies are drilling for oil because it’s worth about eight times more on an energy-equivalent basis than gas on U.S. markets, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
A measure of financial shares in the S&P 500 lost 0.4 percent for the second-biggest decline among 10 industries. Morgan Stanley fell 1.7 percent to $20.06. Fifth Third retreated 1.8 percent to $14.24.
Hewlett-Packard slid 2.2 percent to $23.46. The company will combine its personal-computer unit with the division that sells printers into a group led by Todd Bradley, who ran the PC business, to help cut expenses amid declining sales and profit.
“Deeper issues will likely take more than management changes,” Maynard Um, an analyst with UBS AG in New York, said in a note to investors.
Hartford Financial Services Group Inc. (HIG) rose 1.4 percent to $22.02. Chief Executive Officer Liam McGee responded to billionaire John Paulson’s call for a breakup with plans to shut or sell parts of the 201-year-old insurer. Hartford will stop selling individual annuities and seek buyers for its individual life, Woodbury Financial Services and retirement-plan operations.
LinkedIn Corp. (LNKD) surged 6.5 percent to $97.78. The biggest professional-networking website was raised to buy from neutral at Goldman Sachs Group Inc.
Netflix Inc. (NFLX) gained 4.4 percent to $120.10. The online and mail-order video-rental service said the mystery series “Hemlock Grove” will be available exclusively to its members for instant viewing early in 2013.
Stocks will probably begin a “steady upward trajectory” over the next few years because any declines in economic growth are already reflected in share prices, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. said. The MSCI World Index (MXWO) is trading at 13.2 times estimated earnings after falling 7.6 percent last year, data compiled by Bloomberg show.
“Given current valuations, we think it’s time to say a ‘long goodbye’ to bonds, and embrace the ‘long good buy’ for equities as we expect them to embark on an upward trend over the next few years,” Peter Oppenheimer, chief global equity strategist at Goldman Sachs in London, wrote in a report today.
The prospects for returns in equities versus bonds “are as good as they have been in a generation,” he wrote.
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