After the previous trading session’s retreat, stocks ended sharply lower on Thursday, as investors seem to be coming around to the accepted view that elected officials in Washington, D.C. will not be soon in resolving their differences over the nation’s budget, as well as the upcoming battle over the debt ceiling.
The situation was perhaps best summed-up by Equities.com contributor George Brooks, who earlier in the day wrote that “The Street is taking this crisis too lightly, confident a deal will be struck, just because failure to do so would roil financial markets worldwide…But, the Street may have it wrong this time. How do you program all those Wall Street computers to make sense about what is happening in Washington? Not even a computer would believe it.”
Thursday’s economic data consisted of the weekly jobless claims report that indicated the number of people filing for first-time jobless benefits during the previous week was lower than expected at 308,000. Jobless claims overall are at six-year lows, but the shutdown could change this scenario as more and more government workers are furloughed.
Meanwhile, the ISM services index that tracks non-manufacturing activity in the US dropped from 58.6 in August to 54.4 for the month of September, well below expectations of a reading of 57, indicating that growth in the US services sector has slowed substantially over the last month.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 index dropped 0.90 percent to 1,678.66 points, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average was also off by 0.90 percent, dipping below 15,000 to hit 14,996.48 points, and the NASDAQ was 1.07 lower, closing at 3,774.34 points.
Healthcare stocks ended lower on the S&P, with steep losses for Biogen Idec Inc. (BIIB) and Eli Lilly & Co. (LLY) , while services stocks also lagged, with drops from Netflix (NFLX) and The Washington Post Company (WPO) .
All but one of the Dow’s components ended the day in the red. Boeing (BA) , Chevron (CVX) , and E.I. du Pont de Nemours (DD) were all off over 2 percent, while Verizon Communications (VZ) was the only stock to advance at all during Thursday trading.
On the NASDAQ, tech shares created significant downward pressure, with Facebook Inc. (FB) and Groupon (GRPN) dropping sharply, and Angie’s List (ANGI) off over 17 percent ahead of the close after the company’s announcement that it was cutting membership fees shook shareholder confidence.