U.S. stocks tumbled, falling for the fourth time in five weeks and erasing the Dow Jones Industrial Average’s 2012 gain, amid concern the global economy is slowing and Europe’s debt crisis is worsening.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index slumped 2.5 percent yesterday, the most since November, after American employers added the fewest workers in a year during May. All 10 industries in the benchmark index slipped in the holiday-shortened week. Energy shares sank 4.6 percent as oil had the biggest monthly decline in more than three years. An index of homebuilders tumbled 10 percent, the most since August, amid worse-than-expected housing data. Facebook Inc. plunged 13 percent.
The S&P 500 lost 3 percent to 1,278.04 for the week, trimming its gain for the year to 1.6 percent. The Dow dropped 336.26 points, or 2.7 percent, to 12,118.57, putting it below 2011’s closing level and erasing a year-to-date rally that had been 7.1 percent as of May 1.
“People are just de-risking,” Joseph Keating, who helps oversee $1 billion as chief investment officer at CenterState Wealth Management in Birmingham, Alabama, said in a phone interview. “It’s unclear what policies would be put in place by the European leaders to basically facilitate whatever is going to happen in Greece, along with how to hold the banking system in Europe together,” he said. In the U.S., “companies are just not hiring. That puts the recovery at risk.”
Equities declined amid the monthly employment figures and data showing the U.S. economy grew more slowly in the first quarter than previously estimated. A gauge of manufacturing in the euro zone dropped to a three-year low while China’s Purchasing Managers’ Index showed the weakest production growth since December. Europe’s debt crisis intensified as investors focused on Spain’s finances and Greece’s ability to remain in the euro region.
Concern about a global slowdown and a worsening situation in Europe drove the S&P 500 down 6.3 percent in May for the biggest monthly loss since September. Treasuries rallied, pushing yields on 30-year and 10-year debt to record lows. The Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index (VIX), which measures the cost of using options as insurance against declines in the S&P 500, surged 23 percent to 26.66, the highest since December.
The retreat in equities has cut the S&P 500’s valuation to 12.9 times earnings from the last 12 months. That’s about 21 percent below average of 16.4 since 1954, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Earnings in the S&P 500 are forecast to reach a record $104.74 a share in 2012. The S&P 500’s earnings yield reached 7.74 percent, close to the highest on record when compared with the 10-year Treasury rate, according to Bloomberg data going back to 1962.
“I’m actually getting prepared for turning very bullish” on stocks, David Rosenberg, Toronto-based chief economist and strategist at Gluskin Sheff & Associates Inc. said in a phone interview. “But several things have to fall into place. We’re going to have to get to levels on dividend yields, price-to-earnings ratios and sentiment that will be consistent with an onset of a secular bull market.”
The dividend yield for the S&P 500 has increased to 2.23 percent from last year’s low of 1.78 percent. During the depths of the U.S. subprime-mortgage crisis, the payout surged to 4.10 percent in March 2009.
Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM), the largest energy producer by market value, fell the most in the Dow, sinking 5.1 percent to $77.92. Crude fell to the lowest level in almost eight months amid concern fuel demand may tumble. Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. slipped 10 percent to $31.15.
An S&P gauge of homebuilders plunged 10 percent after the number of Americans signing contracts to buy previously owned homes fell in April by the most in a year. PulteGroup Inc. (PHM), the biggest U.S. builder by revenue, slumped 11 percent to $8.26. D.R. Horton Inc. slipped 11 percent to $15.21 while Lennar Corp. (LEN) tumbled 11 percent to $25.02.
Facebook plunged 13 percent to $27.72 amid concern the world’s largest social-networking service will struggle to wring profit from its 901 million users. The stock has declined 27 percent since it began trading on May 18, and has slipped below the low end of the $28-to-$35 price range Facebook set for its initial public offering before boosting the asking price and number of shares.
Groupon Inc. (GRPN) plunged 20 percent to $9.69, the lowest level since its November IPO, as a lockup period expired, permitting insiders to sell shares of the largest daily coupon website.
Kohl’s Corp. (KSS) sank 11 percent to $44.70. The retailer said May same-store sales decreased 4.2 percent. That compares with the average estimate for a 1.1 percent decline. Sears Holdings Corp. (SHLD), the department-store chain controlled by hedge fund manager Edward Lampert, tumbled 15 percent to $48.45.
Joy Global Inc. (JOY) lost 7.5 percent to $55.69. The maker of P&H and Joy mining equipment cut forecasts for full-year earnings and revenue as mining companies ease capital spending amid concern over an economic slowdown in China. Caterpillar Inc., the largest maker of construction and mining equipment, slipped 4.9 percent to $85.52.
Gold producers jumped as signs of weakening job growth in the U.S. fueled expectations the Federal Reserve will take further steps to spur growth, boosting the appeal of the precious metal as an inflation hedge. Newmont Mining Corp. (NEM), the largest U.S. gold producer, advanced 3 percent to $50.30 for the second-biggest advance in the S&P 500. Barrick Gold Corp. (ABX) climbed 4.8 percent to $41.91.
The central bank is close to completing its program to replace $400 billion of shorter-term debt in its holdings with longer maturities to support the economy by keeping down borrowing costs. The program, known as Operation Twist, ends this month. The Fed bought $2.3 trillion of debt in two rounds of quantitative easing since the subprime-mortgage crisis that have become known as QE1 and QE2.
The Fed is more likely to provide added stimulus when its current effort winds down, according to Morgan Stanley. The probability of more central bank policy action is 80 percent, up from 50 percent before yesterday’s jobs report, the firm said.
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