Markets Lower As Investors Weigh Optimism, Economic Data…..

U.S. stocks finished lower in choppy action, as optimism that the U.S. may soon begin the slow process of reopening came up against continued mixed results and withdrawn guidance on the earnings front and persistently disappointing economic news. Investors got a look at results from Dow members Caterpillar, Merck & Co, Pfizer and 3M, along with PepsiCo, UPS and Southwest Airlines. Meanwhile, the severe COVID-19 disruption continued to be on display in the economic data, as Consumer Confidence fell to 2014 lows and regional manufacturing output in the south tumbled. Treasury yields were lower as bond prices gained ground, the U.S. dollar and crude oil prices also came under pressure, and gold fell. Europe finished higher amid a slew of earnings pouring in on that side of the pond, while markets in Asia were mixed.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 32 points (0.1%) to 24,102, the S&P 500 Index decreased 15 points (0.5%) to 2,863 and the Nasdaq Composite lost 122 points (1.4%) to 8,608. In moderately heavy volume, 1.0 billion shares were traded on the NYSE and 3.6 billion shares changed hands on the NASDAQ. WTI crude oil lost $0.44 to $12.34 per barrel and wholesale gasoline gained $0.02 to $0.70 per gallon. Elsewhere, the Bloomberg gold spot price was $7.00 lower at $1,706.99 per ounce, while the Dollar Index—a comparison of the U.S. dollar to six major world currencies—declined 0.1% to 99.991.

The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index fell to 86.9 in April, from March’s downwardly-revised 118.8 level, and versus the Bloomberg estimate of 87.0. The index hit the lowest level since 2014 as the Present Situation Index fell sharply. However, the Expectations Index of business conditions for the next six months improved to limit the depth of the drop for the index. On employment, the labor differential—consumers’ appraisal of jobs being “plentiful” minus being “hard to get”—plunged to -13.6 from the 29.5 level posted in March.

The Richmond Fed Manufacturing Activity Index for April tumbled deep into a level depicting contraction (a reading below zero), falling to -53 versus forecasts calling for the figure to drop to -41 from March’s 2 level.

The advance goods-trade balance showed that the March deficit unexpectedly widened, coming in at $64.2 billion, versus estimates calling for $55.0 billion. February’s deficit was unrevised at $59.9 billion.

Preliminary wholesale inventories fell 1.0% month-over-month (m/m) for March, compared to expectations of a 0.4% decrease, and compared to February’s upwardly-revised 0.6% decline.

The 20-city composite S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller Home Price Index posted a 3.5% y/y gain in home prices in February, versus estimates of a 3.2% increase. Compared to the prior month, home prices were 0.5% higher on a seasonally adjusted basis, versus forecasts of a 0.4% gain.

Treasuries were higher, as the yield on the 2-year note dipped 2 basis points (bps) to 0.20%, the yield on the 10-year note decreased 4 bps to 0.61%, and the 30-year bond rate declined 5 bps to 1.20%.

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