Bulls stomped on the brakes today as a wave of disappointing data washed over Wall Street. The Commerce Department kicked things off by reporting that U.S. durable goods orders fell 1% in June, defying expectations for a 1% increase during the month. Unfortunately, the afternoon release of the Fed's Beige Book struck a similarly troublesome note.
In keeping with the cautious tone of comments made by Chairman Ben Bernanke before the Senate last week, most of the 12 Federal Reserve districts reported stagnant or slowing economic progress. Meanwhile, on the earnings front, a second-quarter revenue miss from aerospace giant Boeing (BA) only served to underscore the day's gloomy mood. And just like that, the Dow's four-day winning streak was snapped.
"We saw some late-day selling after the Beige Book confirmed that the economy isn't bouncing back as much as we'd like," noted a senior analyst. "Nonetheless, most of the corporate earnings we're seeing continue to be much better than expected, even if the economic data is mixed."
The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA – 10,497.88) settled on a modest loss of 39.8 points, or 0.4%, as 21 of its 30 components backpedaled. Boeing paced the decliners in the wake of its revenue miss, but Pfizer (PFE) wasn't far behind. Among the nine advancing blue chips, Verizon Communications (VZ) racked up the day's biggest gain. Despite the day's downbeat finish, the Dow notched a third straight daily finish above its 80-day moving average, which neatly contained the blue-chip barometer's intraday low.
The S&P 500 Index (SPX – 1,106.13) clung to its perch above 1,100, sacrificing just 7.7 points, or 0.7%, by the close. The index's 200-day moving average continues to be a point of concern, with this trendline capping the SPX's intraday progress. Finally, the Nasdaq Composite (COMP – 2,264.56) fared the worst, shedding 23.7 points, or 1%. Nevertheless, the COMP collected its fourth consecutive daily close above its 200-day moving average.
Crude Oil Futures
Oil futures fell in sympathy with stocks today, as traders passed over riskier assets in favor of safer investing havens. The day's lackluster durable goods data was a point of concern, as was the Energy Information Administration's (EIA) confession of an unexpected weekly climb in crude inventories. As traders fretted over the prospects of a weaker economic recovery, crude for September delivery slipped 51 cents, or 0.8%, to settle at $76.99 per barrel.
On the other hand, gold futures eked out a modest gain. Physical demand remains relatively muted, but the malleable metal clawed its way into the black on the backs of bargain hunters. Month-to-date, the most active December contract has shed nearly 7% of its value, which effectively tempted a few thrifty traders. Gold for December delivery wrapped up the day 60 cents higher at $1,162.40 per ounce.