U.S. stocks fluctuated in mid-day trading today as investors weighed better-than-estimated bank earnings against Federal Reserve concerns about valuations for some social-media and biotech companies.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 17.85, or 0.1 percent, to 17,072.79 at 2:22 p.m. The Nasdaq fell 15.27.08, or 0.3 percent, to 4,425.05, and the S&P 500 fell 1.19 to 1,975.91. Pandora Media Inc. and Facebook Inc. slid more than 0.7 percent. Lorillard Inc. dropped 8.4 percent after Reynolds American Inc. reached agreement to buy its rival for $27.4 billion including debt. JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. increased after the banks reported better-than-estimated earnings.
“There was a short-term reaction there to that comment and the markets pretty much digested it,” Walter “Bucky” Hellwig, a Birmingham, Alabama-based senior vice president at BB&T Wealth Management, said in a phone interview. “What it did is throw some cold water on some of the better earnings reports that were out earlier and had the markets on a roll. For a long-side investor it was disappointing that she had to use those terms specifically.”
Small-caps and Internet shares were the biggest victims of a market retreat earlier this year as investors dumped the best performers of the bull market amid concern valuations advanced too far. The Russell 2000 climbed back from a low in May to within a point of its all-time high on July 3. Selling in Internet and biotech shares resumed last week, sending the Russell 2000 to a loss of 4 percent, its biggest decline in two years.
Fed officials have made cautionary statements about valuations for smaller companies already this year. In February, Fed Governor Daniel Tarullo said surging small caps were one reason policy makers should ensure they weren’t creating systemic risk in financial markets.
Minutes from the Fed’s June meeting, released last week, showed some policy makers were concerned investors may be growing too complacent about the economic outlook and the central bank should be on the lookout for excessive risk-taking, minutes of their June meeting show.
“The Fed wants to pay attention to valuations given that they might have to change the interest rate backdrop that has been a strong catalyst for the market,” Eric Teal, who helps oversee about $3.6 billion as the chief investment officer at First Citizens BancShares Inc. in Raleigh, North Carolina, said by phone. “The small cap area is going to be much more interest-rate sensitive.”
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