So much for Dow (DJINDICES:^DJI) 14,000. On the first trading day after the blue-chip index eclipsed this rarely approached threshold, nearly all of its 30 component stocks are down, dragging the overall index lower by 101 points, or 0.72%, as of 2:45 p.m. EST.
Today's retreat is largely a result of political events in Europe and the state of manufacturing here at home. Last week, a Spanish newspaper published what it claimed were accounting statements suggesting rampant corruption among the country's ruling party. The statements allegedly show that senior members of the Popular Party, including Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, have received improper cash payments from construction companies every year since 1997.
While the allegations were denied by party spokesmen, they come amid mounting anger stemming from a number of other high-profile political corruption cases. Following the news, the yield on Spain's 10-year government bond, an important measure of investor sentiment in sovereign bonds, rose more than 5% to the highest level since the end of last year.
In Italy, prosecutors in a small southern town have reportedly launched an investigation into some of the country's largest banks for questionable derivatives-trading, sending shares of other European lenders down sharply today. Italy is also in the middle of a closely contested political election in which its former prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, who faces charges relating to inappropriate relations with an underage minor, is gaining ground. Italian 10-year bonds yields are dramatically higher on the news.
Meanwhile, here at home, data released this morning estimated that U.S. factory orders rose in December, though less than forecast by economists. The Department of Commerce said orders for manufactured goods increased by 1.8% in the final month of last year. Economists had predicted a gain of 2.2%.
Strangely, the increase was largely driven by defense spending, without which the factory orders rose only 0.3%. I say "strangely" because the fourth-quarter GDP figures released last week were dragged down by a double-digit decrease in defense spending thanks to the brewing fight over the debt limit.
With respect to individual stocks, shares of Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) are down 1.7% in intraday trading following a report in The New York Times about a legal setback for the bank. The report claims that B of A may have stiffed private investors in mortgage-backed securities in order to stem its own losses related to a multibillion-dollar settlement with the government in 2011.
Also down today are shares of Merck (NYSE:MRK), which are lower by 2% with an hour left to trade. The pharmaceutical company faced analyst downgrades this morning following the company's recent announcement that it will delay a request for approval of a new osteoporosis drug.
Finally, one of the few stocks bucking today's trend is Boeing (NYSE:BA). Shares of the aerospace company are up 0.6% despite recent reports that a Japanese airline is seeking compensation for losses related to the grounding of Boeing's newest aircraft, the 787 Dreamliner. The plane has come under regulatory scrutiny since several of its batteries caught fire.