Stocks slide with slowdown in manufacturing growth
Stocks opened April on a weak note, ending slightly lower after an industry group reported that US manufacturing growth cooled in March. Industrial stocks fell the most in the S&P 500.
New York — The stock market got off to a slow start in April, edging lower after the Standard and Poor's 500 index eclipsed its all-time high last week.
The main catalyst was a slowdown in U.S. manufacturing growth last month. The decline in the Institute for Supply Management's benchmark manufacturing index for March was worse than economists had forecast. Stocks started falling shortly after the report came out at 10 a.m. and stayed lower the rest of the day.
The Dow Jones industrial average closed 5.69 points, or 0.04 percent, lower at 14,572.85. The Standard & Poor's 500 index dropped 7.02 points, or 0.5 percent, to 1,562.17.
Industrial companies fell 1 percent, the most in the S&P. 3M, which makes Post-it notes, industrial products and construction materials, fell 66 cents, or 0.6 percent, to $105.65. Caterpillar, a maker of construction and mining equipment, dropped $1.33, or 1.5 percent, to $85.64.
Investors have raised their expectations for the U.S. economy as the market has climbed this year, said JJ Kinahan, chief derivatives strategist at TD Ameritrade. The Dow is up 11.2 percent in 2013, the S&P 9.5 percent.
"The numbers have to be outstanding in order to drive the market higher," Kinahan said. "It's a different mindset when we're at these levels."
The S&P 500 closed the first quarter at an all-time high of 1,569.19, surpassing its previous record close of 1,565.15 set on Oct. 9, 2007. The index has recaptured all of its losses from the financial crisis and the Great Recession. The Dow broke through its previous all-time high March 5.
The market has risen this year because of optimism that housing is recovering and that employers and starting to hire again. Strong company earnings and continuing stimulus from the Federal Reserve have also increased demand for stocks.
Small stocks fared worse than large ones Monday.
The Russell 2000, a benchmark of small-company stocks, fell 1.3 percent to 938.78, paring its gain for the year to 10.5 percent. It was the index's biggest decline in more than a month. The Nasdaq composite fell 28.35 points, or 0.9 percent, to 3,239.17.
April is historically the second-strongest month for stocks, Deutsche Bank analysts said in report released Monday. The S&P 500 has gained an average of 1.4 percent in April, based on returns since 1960, making it the second strongest month after December.
The last meaningful setback for stocks started before November's election. The market slid 6 percent between Oct. 1 and Nov. 15 in the run-up to the vote and immediately afterwards on concerns that Washington would be unable to enact reforms to keep the economy growing.
Evidence that growth is continuing, despite the political tensions in Washington, have kept stocks on an upward trajectory since then, leaving investors waiting for dips to add to their holdings.
"I'd love to have some sort of a pullback here because I'd think it's an opportunity," said Scott Wren, an equity strategist at Wells Fargo Advisors. "But it doesn't feel like we're going to have one in the near term."
The yield on the 10-year Treasury note, which moves inversely to its price, fell to 1.84 percent from 1.85 percent.
Markets were closed in observance of Good Friday last week. European markets were closed Monday for Easter.
Among other stocks making big moves:
— Tesla Motors jumped $6.04, or 16 percent, to $43.93 after the electric car company said sales are running ahead of schedule. The Palo Alto, Calif., company said Sunday night that first-quarter sales have exceeded 4,750 Model S sedans, above its previous forecast of 4,500.
— DFC Global, a finance company that provides loans to consumers without bank accounts, fell $3.60, or 22 percent, to $13.04 after slashing its earnings estimate for its fiscal year because of increasing loan defaults in its business in Britain.
— American Greetings rose $1.95, or 12 percent, to $18.05 after the company agreed to be taken private for about $602 million by a group led by some of its top executives.