Stock market today: Stocks slip as US economy starts to show cracks

US stocks opened lower on Tuesday as investors weighed signs the surprising resilience in the US economy might be starting to show cracks.

The S&P 500 (^GSPC) fell 0.3% while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite (^IXIC) dropped 0.2% after both indexes closed higher in the prior session during a bumpy day. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI) dropped about 0.4%.

Stocks have struggled to find a footing as investors face a dilemma over the path of interest rates. Recent weak manufacturing data has prompted Wall Street strategists to scale back their optimism for economic growth, which supports a case for rate cuts. But Federal Reserve officials have warned against hoping for a pivot anytime soon as they wait for inflation to cool sufficiently — and when that time comes isn’t clear.

Eyes will be on April job openings figures due later Tuesday for more clues to how the economy is holding up, with factory and durable goods orders also on the docket. The labor market update serves as a precursor to the crucial May jobs report on Friday — the data highlight of the week.

Meanwhile, the GameSpot (GME) rally — just one part of the jumpy summer start for stocks — lost steam on Tuesday, on the heels of a 21% surge for the meme darling. Shares of the video game retailer were down about 4%.

Elsewhere, India’s stock benchmark plummeted, wiping out almost $35 billion in value, after touching all-time highs on Monday. The vote count in the country’s national elections put the majority held by Prime Minister Narenda Modi’s ruling party in doubt, despite exit polls showing a likely landslide win.

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    Stocks open lower led by decline in Energy sector

    Stocks opened in the red on Tuesday amid increased concerns over the health of the US economy following weaker than expected manufacturing data.

    The S&P 500 (^GSPC) and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite (^IXIC) both fell about 0.3% after closing modestly higher on Monday during a bumpy session for the three major gauges. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI) decreased about 0.2% after losing more than 100 points in the prior session.

    The S&P 500 Energy Select ETF (XLE) led the declines as oil hit a four month low on Tuesday. Traders continued to assess the latest output cut plan by OPEC+ amid concerns of oversupply towards the end of the year. The oil alliance plans to extend most of its production reductions into 2025, but will start phasing out additional, voluntary cuts starting in October.

    Recent data shows activity cooling across a variety of metrics, dampening expectations that US economic growth could accelerate for a second straight year.

    April job openings due later this morning may be another indication about how the economy is holding up. The labor market update serves as a precursor to the crucial May jobs report on Friday.

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    The unsavory fast food trade

    Fast food stocks have been, well, ice cold.

    The Street has really soured on the likes of McDonald’s (MCD), Restaurant Brands (QSR), Yum! Brands (YUM) and many others in recent months amid sticky inflation and new $5 price wars.

    In short, there is just no catalyst in place to drive the stocks higher in the near-term.

    This was underscored by EvercoreISI analyst David Palmer this morning, who has cut his same-store sales estimates for the aforementioned names.

    I wanted to highlight two sections of interest from his report:

    “US drive-thru chains are experiencing weakness across most income groups, but the weakness is most pronounced with households earning less than $50,000/year. This cohort is benefitting less from rising asset prices and suffering more from higher interest rates. Lastly, it is these consumers that most experience the regressionary tax of inflation itself with 30%+ COVID-era food cost inflation combining with the higher restaurant meal costs (over 4x higher than at-home prepared) to create an affordability problem. In addition, increased media and social media scrutiny of fast food pricing has added to pressure on McDonald’s, in particular.”


    “In the past, compelling value menus were often anchored by a hero item — often viewed by the consumer as a loss leader. These included the $1 double cheeseburger (McDonald’s 2003- 2012), the $1 any size soft drink (McDonald’s 2017-2020), the $5 footlong (Subway), the $5 mix-and-match (Domino’s), and the $1.50 hot dog (Costco). The question of the day — will a $5 bundle be enough to stabilize McDonald’s traffic and will the higher food cost of the meal prove worth it enough to keep around the rest of the summer (or longer)? If the $5 meal is not a long-term solution, will a BOGO $1 menu do the trick for McDonald’s? We suspect the answer will come in the advertising effectiveness — will it leverage McDonald’s $1 billion national advertising budget? Should McDonald’s be able to stabilize traffic with value in 3Q the steady stream of new products in 2H24 and 2025 should kick off a substantial brand recovery.”

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    Good point on stocks from Goldman

    And I awoke to a 16-page research report on stocks from Goldman Sachs. Great train reading.

    Good point by its team on stocks:

    “However, given the rise in valuations, and the recent corresponding rise in investor sentiment, equities are more vulnerable to disappointments. Stocks have largely, so far, shrugged off the delay in interest rate cuts because growth has been holding up — cyclical sectors of the main markets have been outperforming defensives leaving them exposed to any signs of economic activity faltering (particularly around the labour market).”

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    Citi spent some time with Nvidia’s CFO

    While Nvidia (NVDA) CEO Jensen Huang gets all the attention, his long-time CFO is also important to track if you are invested in the name.

    Colette Kress has been Nvidia’s CFO for 10 years, and is viewed in Wall Street circles as one of the best in the game.

    Citi got to spend time with her this week and is out with a note. I think what they said below (based on their meeting with Kress) is of interest, and a little-discussed demand driver for the chipmaker.

    “Sovereign AI demand is strong in various parts of the world. In Europe, Nvidia is seeing some work being done by countries such as France, Germany and Italy, with France leading the way. The Middle East is also an area investing heavily in AI. It is also the case in South East Asia. Nvidia clarified that not all investors are directly tied to the government. Some entities are just government-backed, not owned. In general, sovereign AI clients already have specific use cases to use their products for. Generally speaking the entities look to build models based on their own characteristics.”

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    Stifel’s call on the markets

    I have no problem with strategists making bold calls as long as they are rooted in reality.

    I think that’s what we are getting from Stifel’s Barry Bannister this morning.

    Bannister says he is looking for a 10% correction in the S&P 500 to about 4,750, occurring between the second and third quarters.


    • “Sticky (and slightly higher) inflation in the second half of the year, starting early 3Q24E.”

    • “No Fed rate cuts in 2024, despite sluggish cyclical economic growth.”

    • “S&P 500 price to earnings ratio to decline about 2 multiples (about 500 points) by the end of the third quarter.”

    Below is what Stifel’s CEO Ron Kruszewski told me about the Fed and markets recently.

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    Bottom line on GameStop

    GameStop (GME) shares are flat-lining in the early going today after a 21% pop (well off the 103% gain seen around the open…).

    I think my long-time markets go-to Steve Sosnick from Interactive Brokers said it best to me via email on the move here:

    “It can’t be explained by normal, rational means.”

    Be careful here, folks, chasing this one.

    Some coverage of GameStop mania this week from Yahoo Finance:

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