U.S. equities closed sharply lower on Friday amid a massive drop in technology stocks and as mixed U.S. employment data raised concerns the Federal Reserve may raise rates this year.
“It started with the uncertainty of the Fed and with the weak tech earnings … it seems to have spread to the broader market,” said JJ Kinahan, chief strategist at TD Ameritrade. “I think people are taking any unnecessary risk off before the weekend.”
Dow Jones week-to-dateSource: FactSet
The S&P 500 index closed 1.85 lower percent, as information technology fell more than 3.35 percent.
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LinkedIn shares also tanked 43.63 percent after posting weak guidance on their quarterly results. “I think 60 percent [of the market sell-off] is that the Fed was going to raise rates,” said Kim Forrest, senior equity analyst at Fort Pitt Capital. “The other 40 percent is LinkedIn. The quarter was good, but the guidance was not.”
“Some of the big tech stocks have had weak earnings,” said Randy Frederick, managing director of trading and derivatives at Charles Schwab. “One stock is not a bellwether for one sector, but when you get multiple stocks with negative earnings reports, then you start seeing [a sector] go lower.”
Investors also digested data showing the U.S. economy added 151,000 jobs in January, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Economists were expecting a gain of 190,000. The unemployment rate, however, fell to 4.9 percent from 5.0 percent, while wages rose 0.5 percent.
“There was something for the bulls and something for the bears. It depends on which part of the statistics you want to focus on,” said Bruce McCain, chief investment strategist at Key Private Bank.
“This is a classic example of why the headline looks worse than the actual report,” said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities. “The key components of this report were positive.”
He noted that average hourly earnings, average hours worked and labor force participation all rose last month.
“It’s all about that wage number, and that the 151,000 number is still indicative of growth,” said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at First Standard Financial. “[Wages] could be a sticking point for the Fed.”
The jobs report raised the odds of another Federal Reserve rate hike, said Arne Espe, senior portfolio manager at USAA Investments.
“We’re back to pricing in a 50 percent chance for a rate hike in December,” he said. ” We were at less than 50 percent before the report.”
The central bank hiked interest rates for the first time in nine years in December.
Recent U.S. economic data has been mixed and, coupled with falling oil prices, have contributed to rising fears of a recession.
However, Glassdoor Chief Economist Andrew Chamberlain said “if we’re going into a recession, the first thing firms will do is stop hiring.”
“There is no evidence of that,” noting that the number of job openings is still high.
Wesley Phoa, fixed income portfolio manager at Capital Group, said the recession risk in the U.S. remains “very low.” “I think that, if a recession were to happen in the U.S., it would be due to an external shock.”
“I always feel it’s best to smooth out the monthly gyrations of payroll data and today’s number brings the 3 month average to 222k, the 6 month average to 212k and the 12 month average to 214k. Thus, let’s call it steady state notwithstanding this one month miss,” Peter Boockvar, chief market analyst at The Lindsey Group said in note.
Another data set released Friday was the U.S. trade deficit, which widened in December amid a rising dollar and a weak global demand.
Investors also kept a close eye on oil prices. U.S. crude traded in a wide range Friday, before settling at $30.89 a barrel, down 2.6 percent, or 83 cents. U.S. oil rigs fell by 31 this week and totaled 467, according to data from Baker Hughes.
“Anything above $30 will be constructive [for U.S. stocks],” Wunderlich’s Hogan said. However, he also said, if prices broke below the $30 mark, they would weigh on the broader equities market.
Capital Group’s Phoa said the fall in oil prices is one of the main factors driving the recent market volatility.
“There’s a massive structural change going on there,” he said. “I think that what’s going on in the stock market is leaving a lot of opportunity out there, but there is a reason why they are out there.”
The CBOE Volatility index (VIX), widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, traded at 23.43, up 7.33 percent. “When you see volatility rise and bond prices drop … that’s when you need to be afraid,” TD Ameritrade’s Kinahan said.
WTI in 2016
The dollar rallied on the U.S. jobs report, with the euro falling about 0.3 percent to $1.11.
U.S. Treasurys fell on the report, but regained some ground, with 10-year yields trading at 1.84 percent.
Gold futures for April delivery settled at $1,157.70 an ounce, up 20 cents. USAA’s Espe said long-term “it’s more likely that gold will be much higher relative to the dollar” as equities around the world have entered a bear market.
“Both earnings and economic data continue to slow down, and that’s not good for Main Street or Wall Street,” said Adam Sarhan, CEO of Sarhan Capital. “Surprises are happening to the downside — not the upside — and that’s what happens in a bear market.”
European equities fell on Friday, as the pan-European STOXX 600 closed 0.87 percent lower. Asian stocks closed mostly lower, with the Nikkei 225 falling 1.3 percent and the Shanghai composite dropping 0.6 percent.
The S&P 500 ended 35.40 points, or 1.85 percent, to 1,880.05, with information technology leading eight sectors lower and utilities and telecommunications the only advancers.
The Nasdaq dropped 146.41 points, or 3.25 percent, to trade at 4,363.14.
Decliners led advancers 3 to 1 on the New York Stock Exchange, with an exchange volume of 1.153 billion and a composite volume of 4.916 billion at the close.
High-frequency trading accounted for 49 percent of February’s daily trading volume of about 9.09 billion shares, according to TABB Group. During the peak levels of high-frequency trading in 2009, about 61 percent of 9.8 billion of average daily shares traded were executed by high-frequency traders.