Dow tumbles 240 points to 7-week low

Lackluster earnings for 3 major companies

Stocks sold off Tuesday, with the Dow Jones industrial average sliding nearly 240 points to a seven-week low following a slew of disappointing earnings.

All but two of the Dow's 30 components were in the red. Only Intel and Microsoft eked out small gains.

The S&P 500 was 1.4 percent lower, also a seven-week low. But a strong performance from Yahoo helped the Nasdaq regain ground, putting the tech-heavy index down just 0.9 percent, an eight-week low.

Even with the day's sharp declines, all three indexes are still up between 7 percent and 15 percent this year.

Tuesday's sell-off came after three major U.S. industrial companies missed earnings expectations, igniting worries that the global economy might be on shakier ground than previously suspected.

"Our trading partners have bigger economic issues than even we have, and that's why we saw September drop off significantly for companies," said Tim Ghriskey, chief investment officer at Solaris Asset Management.

"There's continuing uncertainty about the economic health of Europe and China," he said, noting that the highly contested presidential election and looming fiscal cliff are just adding to worries about the U.S. economy.

Shares of chemicals maker DuPont fell nearly 9 percent after the Dow component reported weaker-than-expected quarterly earnings and announced plans to cut 1,500 jobs worldwide. United Technologies, which provides technology for aerospace and building industries and a Dow stock, reported better-than-expected earnings but missed on revenue and lowered its revenue forecast for next year.

3M , which makes Scotch Tape and Post-it notes and is considered an economic bellwether, reported earnings that were in line with forecasts, but the company missed revenue estimates and pulled back on its guidance.

UPS, another global economic bellwether, reported results that were roughly in line with expectations.

After the bell, Facebook and Netflix will release their reports.

Analysts at S&P Capital IQ predict third-quarter earnings for companies in the S&P 500 will grow by just 0.04 percent overall this quarter, the worst since the third quarter of 2009.

In addition to the earnings news, Apple unveiled a 7.9-inch iPad mini, half the size and weight of its original tablet at an event in California Tuesday afternoon. The tech giant also introduced a new 13-inch MacBook Pro. Despite the news, shares of the company were down more than 3%.

Stocks were already under pressure ahead of the lackluster earnings, as news surrounding Spain unnerved investors.

The euro fell below the key $1.30 level after ratings agency Moody's downgraded five of Spain's regional governments, including Catalonia -- the largest. And the gross domestic product for Spain, which has been mired in recession for months, fell by 0.4 percent in the third quarter from the second quarter, according to data released Tuesday from the Bank of Spain.

European stocks closed lower. Britain's FTSE 100 fell 1.4 percent, the DAX in Germany lost 2.1 percent and France's CAC 40 declined 2.2 percent.

Asian markets closed mixed. The Shanghai Composite slid 0.6 percent and Japan's Nikkei was little changed. The Hong Kong exchange was closed for a holiday.

Companies: Xerox reported a 3% drop in revenue for the third quarter, below analyst expectations.

Shares of Harley-Davidson Inc surged 8% after the motorcycle maker announced that new bikes are due to come out by 2015.

Target said Tuesday that it sold its consumer credit card portfolio to TD Bank for $5.9 billion.

Shares of Monster Beverage tumbled 10% Tuesday, after closing down 14% in the prior day's session. The Food and Drug Administration confirmed Monday that it had received five reports claiming that consuming Monster Beverage products resulted in death.

Currencies and commodities: The dollar rose against the British pound, but fell versus the Japanese yen.

Oil for December delivery sank $2.49 to $86.17 a barrel - its lowest level since mid-July.

Gold futures for December delivery fell $16.90 to $1,709.40 an ounce.

Bonds: The price on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury edged higher, pushing the yield down to 1.76 percent from 1.80 percent late Monday.

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