Stocks sank for the second day in a row today as momentum names continued to lead the fall. At the close of the session, Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) finished down 143 points, or 0.9%, as the S&P 500 dropped 1% and the tech-heavy Nasdaq lost 1.3%, falling just below 4,000 for the first time in more than a month.
The continuing sell-off seems to simply be a sign that investors view the market as overvalued, and are taking profits while they can. Today's selling occurred without a macroeconomic driver, as the producer price index jumped 0.5% in March from February, much higher than expectations of a 0.1% increase, and up from a 0.1% drop in February. While the spike might seem to indicate a sharp rise in inflation, wholesale prices are only up 1.4% in the last year, below the 2% mark set as a target by the Federal Reserve. A rise in prices can also be a positive for the economy, as it indicates a pickup in business activity. A consumer confidence report from the University of Michigan was also strong as its survey hit 82.6, its highest level since July. better than estimates of 81.0, and up from 80.0 in March. The figure is closely watched, as consumer spending makes 70% of the U.S. economy.
JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM ) was also weighing on the market today, falling 3.7% after its earnings report missed the mark today. The banking giant said profits fell on weaker trading and mortgage revenue. CEO Jamie Dimon said the decline was simply part of a business cycle, and did not see it as reason for concern, or as a reason for the bank to alter its strategy. Earnings per share dropped from $1.59 a year ago to $1.28, missing estimates at $1.40, as revenue fell 8.5%, to $22.99 billion, also well below expectations at $24.53 billion. Rival Wells Fargo fared better in its earnings report this morning, rising 0.8%, after showing profits increased 14%, to $1.05 per share, better than estimates at $0.97.
Shares of Herbalife (NYSE: HLF ) tanked late in today's trading session, finishing down 14% after reports of a criminal investigation came out this afternoon. The news was initially reported in The Financial Times, citing "people familiar with the matter," and follows an investigation by the Federal Trade Commission announced last month. Herbalife responded to the reports, saying, "We have no knowledge of any ongoing investigation by the DOJ or the FBI, and we have not received any formal nor informal request for information from either agency."
The nutritional-supplement supplier has been embroiled in controversy for more than a year now as hedge fund manager Bill Ackman has accused the company of being a pyramid, as the stock price has rocked back and forth since. For now, it's impossible to speculate on the nature of the inquiry as no charges have been filed, and the company has not been accused of any wrongdoing. Herbalife has been operating since 1980, and has survived similar scares before. Investors should pay attention to developments, but today's news isn't a reason to sell on its own.
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