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U.S. stocks fell Monday in a choppy start to August trading as Wall Street struggled to sustain July’s momentum.
The S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average each fell roughly 0.3%, while the Nasdaq Composite held near breakeven.
Investors mulled a flurry of data early in the session that showed manufacturing activity expanded at the slowest pace in more than two years. The Institute for Supply Management’s gauge of factory activity retreated to 52.8 from 53 a month earlier, marking the lowest level since June 2020.
Meanwhile, separate data from S&P Global showed a build-up in finished goods inventories slipped for the first time since October 2020.
Monday’s moves come after stocks capped a month of strong gains on Friday. In July, the benchmark S&P 500 index rallied 9.1%, fighting back from its worst start to a year since 1962. The Nasdaq Composite soared 12.3% to log one of its best months on record, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 6.7% for the month.
DataTrek’s Nicholas Colas points out that in recent weeks, equities have reflected typical “risk-on” behavior, with small-cap stocks outperforming large-caps, and the Nasdaq Composite beating the S&P 500. The rebound came amid expectations that recent signs of a slowing economy may prompt the Federal Reserve to scale back its interest rate hiking cycle in the fall.
“Summer is a great time to go camping, but we aren’t out of the woods yet,” analysts at Bank of America said in a note Sunday morning, warning of more pain ahead for equities.
During the last five recessions, the S&P 500 bottomed only after earnings estimates for the index were revised down – with the exception of 1990 when forward EPS remained flat – but cuts to estimates are only starting, BofA pointed out.
“Our bull market signposts also indicate it’s premature to call a bottom,” analysts said, adding that historical market bottoms occur when 80% of indicators of indicators of a bottom are triggered, compared to only 30% currently and also that bear markets usually end only after the Fed begins to cut rates – a move likely at least six months away.
Investors are in for another busy week of economic data and corporate earnings. The Labor Department’s July jobs report is the major event of the week, with data out Friday expected to show nonfarm payrolls grew by 250,000 in July.
Meanwhile, another 150 companies in the S&P 500 are on deck to report second-quarter results.
While some earnings have come in better than expected, among roughly 56% of companies that have reported results so far for Q2, earnings have come in only 3.1% above estimates, below the five-year average of 8.8%, according to data from FactSet Research.
Releases from companies including Aflac (AFL), Activision Blizzard (ATVI), Pinterest (PINS), and World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) are on tap Monday.
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