U.S. stocks were trading down Thursday morning as investors look to overnight drops in Europe and await a speech later today from U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen that could offer the latest clues on when the U.S. will begin increasing interest rates for the first time in years. Meanwhile, new data released before markets opened showed orders for long-lasting goods dropped in August on a stronger U.S. dollar, which impacts exports, and a pullback of investment in energy operations on low oil prices.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEXDJX:.DJI) shed 213.02 points, or 1.31 percent, to 16,067. The Standard & Poor's 500 index (INDEXSP:.INX) lost 23.43 points, or 1.21 percent, to 1,915. The Nasdaq composite (INDEXNASDAQ:.IXIC) dropped 61.63 points, or 1.30 percent, to 4,691.
All 10 major sectors were in the red Thursday morning, led by industrial companies and firms that supply raw materials. Utilities and telecommunications companies were down less than 1 percent. Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE:CAT) plunged nearly 7 percent to its lowest price in five years after the construction and mining equipment maker lowered its sales forecast and said it could cut up to 10,000 jobs. The news pulled down industrial stocks.
The U.S. Commerce Department said Thursday a key indicator of business investment, orders for durable goods, fell 0.2 percent in August after gaining 1.2 percent in July. Demand for aircraft and automotive parts dropped while energy companies continued to reel back on investments amid low prices and demand for crude. Orders for computers plunged 5.7 percent last month though demand for industrial machinery gained 1 percent.
Fed Chair Janet Yellen will speak Thursday evening at the University of Massachusetts about inflation and policy, a week after the Fed surprised markets by holding interest rates at historic lows, raising concerns about the health of the global economy.
Asian stocks were mostly down, led by a 2.76 percent drop of Japan’s Nikkei 225. Japanese telecommunications and Internet giant Softbank Group Corp. (TYO:9984) led declines in Tokyo, dropping 6.3 percent as its major holdings, including China’s Alibaba Group, tumbled. Japanese automotive suppliers, like NGK Insulators Ltd. (TYO:5333), dropped amid a widening emissions-rigging scandal at Volkswagen AG, the world’s largest automaker. Hong Kong’s Hang Sen closed down 0.97 percent while the mainland’s Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.86 percent, suggesting a recent massive sell-off may be over, for now.
Europe’s major indexes were all heading to a red close on Thursday amid volatility in automotive, raw materials and industrials. London’s FTSE 100 Index was down 0.68 percent while the German DAX and French CAC 40 dropped 1.91 percent and 1.76 percent, respectively.
Oil prices were down Thursday after U.S. data released Wednesday showed a larger-than-expected buildup of U.S. gasoline stocks and tepid demand following the end of the summer holiday driving season. West Texas Intermediate crude, the benchmark for U.S. oil prices on the New York Mercantile Exchange, lost 0.63 percent to $44.20 per barrel for November delivery. On the London ICE Futures Exchange, Brent crude for November advanced 0.10 percent to $47.70 a barrel.