Stocks suffered their biggest pullback in two months Thursday, with the Dow Jones industrial average logging a triple-digit decline, as a disappointing bond auction and a lackluster report on sales of existing homes halted the market’s two-day rally.
The market drifted lower for much of the session after the National Association of Realtors said sales of U.S. existing homes fell 0.8 percent in December to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.22 million. Then, in the afternoon, a less-than-enthusiastic reception for the Treasury’s latest sale of five-year notes sent bond prices falling and yields rising sharply, rattling stock investors already worried about higher rates.
Stocks fell further while the yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to a three-month high.
Earlier in the day, investors’ cheer over quarterly reports from eBay Inc., Nokia Corp., AT&T Inc. had failed to translate to gains as strong earnings news had done in previous days.
“We had a great run,” said Ryan Larson, senior equity trader at Voyager Asset Management, a division of RBC Dain Rauscher. “I think people are kind of tired right now and looking for other avenues.”
The Dow Jones industrial average finished the session down 119.21 points, or 0.94 percent, while the broader Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index dropped 16.23 points, or 1.13 percent. Both indexes saw their worst one-day drop since Nov. 27, 2006.
The technology-rich Nasdaq composite index fell 32.04 points, or 1.30 percent, Thursday. The pullback comes a day after the Nasdaq rose well over 1 percent and the Dow set record trading and closing highs. The Dow’s decline erased nearly all the previous two-day rally of about 145 points.
Bonds fell in response to the auction and the Realtors’ news, which also showed the inventory of existing homes available for sale fell 7.9 percent to 3.51 million. The yield on the benchmark 10-year note jumped to 4.87 percent from 4.81 percent late Wednesday. The dollar was mixed against other major currencies, while gold prices fell.
Investors have wondered for months whether the housing sector and the broader economy could share a similar fate; that is, if a pullback in the housing market would drag down the rest of the economy.
Wall Street seemed to largely shrug off a Labor Department report that the number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits surged last week by the largest amount in 16 months, reversing two weeks of large declines.
Light, sweet crude fell $1.14 to $54.23 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Investors halted recent sharp drops after growing more confident OPEC production cuts would occur.
In corporate news, eBay jumped $2.45, or 8.2 percent, to $32.45 after the online auction house posted a 24 percent increase in profits as sales rose 29 percent.
Ford Motor Co. rose 2 cents to $8.22 even as the automaker reported a loss for 2006 of $12.7 billion — the worst in its 103-year history. Falling sales and enormous restructuring costs hurt results. Investors had been expecting a weak showing, however, and appeared relieved the report wasn’t worse.
AT&T rose 16 cents to $36.79 after the company’s fourth-quarter profit rose 17 percent amid growth in wireless subscribers and in its regional wireline businesses.
Nokia, the mobile phone maker, rose 90 cents, or 4 percent, to $21.11 after the company’s fourth-quarter profit rose 19 percent as sales rose.
Lockheed Martin Corp.’s fourth-quarter earnings rose 28 percent as the defense contractor saw growth in areas like its military hardware business. The company, which raised its full-year profit forecast, rose 30 cents to $97.44.
Overseas, Japan’s Nikkei stock average closed down 0.28 percent. Britain’s FTSE 100 closed down 0.72 percent, Germany’s DAX index fell 0.43 percent and France’s CAC-40 was down 0.51 percent.