After three days of huge moves, Wednesday allowed investors to return to the relative calm they enjoyed throughout most of the summer months. Rather than posting big market moves of 1% or more, major market benchmarks stayed relatively close to unchanged throughout much of the day, and some indexes closed higher, while others finished slightly in the red. Although the predominant theme in the market continues to be a focus on what the next move from the Federal Reserve on interest rates might be, some have also looked at the energy sector as a sign that economic growth is far from a certainty for the future. Despite the quiet day on Wall Street, several stocks posted sharp declines, and among the poorer performers were SunPower (SPWR -2.07%), Barnes & Noble (BKS), and Western Refining (WNR).
SunPower finishes in the shade
SunPower closed down 14%, hitting its lowest level in more than three years as overall sentiment among solar stocks remains weak. One long-term concern among those following the solar power industry is that after a strong year for the utility solar market, demand for new projects in 2017 is expected to slow, and even though new added capacity will still rise at a respectable level, it might not be enough to satisfy investors in the space. Moreover, with some concerns about financial viability among major players in the residential solar space, the trickle-down impact on the entire industry could hold back popular perception of the area and dampen future growth. Weak prices for fossil fuels aren't helping solar, either, because the reduction in incentives from moving to renewables could shutter some of the more marginal projects in the pipeline.
Barnes & Noble keeps falling
Barnes & Noble dropped 7%, continuing its recent poor performance that has led to losses of almost 15% in slightly over a week. Despite high expectations from analysts that had lured some investors into the stock, Barnes & Noble's fiscal first-quarter results showed ongoing weakness, including a 7% drop in revenue and a wider overall loss than it posted during the previous year's fiscal first quarter. A 6% decline in comparable-store sales came from what the company called a challenging retail environment, and investors appear to be cautious about projections from Barnes & Noble that it will see better results in the second half of the fiscal year. Until the bookseller can prove its assertions to be correct, some would-be shareholders will prefer to steer clear of Barnes & Noble.
Western Refining loses energy
Finally, Western Refining posted a 6% decline. Looking broadly at the refinery space, the drop in oil prices that initially helped to bolster profits for Western Refining and its peers has filtered through in the form of lower prices for gasoline and other refined products as well. The resulting deterioration in what is known in the industry as the crack spread has threatened profit growth for refinery companies, and as a result, shares of Western Refining and other refiners have fallen recently. Declines in gasoline futures mirrored the poor performance of crude in the market today, but longer term, the question for Western Refining will be whether refined products and the oil market trade together or in different directions. If gasoline prices rise more than crude overall, then companies like Western Refining stand to boost their profits.