Stocks Slide on Auto Sales Trouble

Stocks Slide on Auto Sales Trouble

NEW YORK (AP) -- U.S. stocks are sinking Monday as car makers drop after reporting March sales figures that disappointed investors. Companies connected to the auto industry are also falling, and investors appeared to take the report as a warning sign about spending by consumers. Banks are falling along with bond yields, and basic materials companies are also slumping on the first day of trading in the second quarter.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 13 points, or 0.6 percent, to 2,349 as of 1:40 p.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 77 points, or 0.4 percent, to 20,585. The Nasdaq composite shed 28 points, or 0.5 percent, to 5,883. The Russell 2000 index of small-company stocks gave up 16 points, or 1.2 percent, to 1,369.

HONK IF YOU'RE SELLING: Automakers tumbled after they said sales of passenger cars fell last month. Ford, Fiat Chrysler, Toyota and Honda all said their sales decreased in March, while GM said its sales were up thanks to stronger SUV sales. Auto sales have reached all-time highs in recent years, but companies are offering more cash, incentives, and low-interest loans to draw in buyers. Investors are getting worried that companies will wind up with big inventories of vehicles they'll have to sell for big discounts.

Ford gave up 31 cents, or 2.7 percent, to $11.33 and Fiat Chrysler lost 53 cents, or 4.8 percent, to $10.40. General Motors stock fell $1.39, or 3.9 percent, to $33.97.

Auto parts retailer O'Reilly Automotive dropped $14.17, or 5.3 percent, to $255.67. Auto retailer AutoNation shed $1.58, or 3.7 percent, to $40.71 and Goodyear Tire slid 92 cents, or 2.6 percent, to $35.08. All told, seven of the 10 worst performers in the S&P 500 came from the auto industry.

Tesla said over the weekend that its deliveries jumped 69 percent in the first quarter to a record 25,000. The electric car company's stock climbed $15.40, or 5.5 percent, to $293.70. Tesla's market capitalization rose to almost $48 billion, greater than Ford's.

THE QUOTE: Steven Ricchiuto, chief U.S. economist for Mizuho, said slower car sales are a major concern because auto sales have been a critical part of the U.S. economy recently. If car sales fall, consumer spending would also weaken. That in turn might mean manufacturers and other companies won't open as many factories or hire as many workers.

"If we're starting to lose some of the momentum on autos, where is the momentum going to come from?" he said.

BONDS: Bond prices rose sharply. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.35 percent from 2.39 percent. When bond yields fall, interest rates also decrease, and that affected banks and financial institutions. Citigroup declined 51 cents to $59.31 and Synchrony Financial dipped 67 cents, or 2 percent, to $33.63.

Basic materials companies also dropped. Mining company Freeport-McMoRan surrendered 26 cents, or 2 percent, to $13.10 and Dow Chemical lost $1.04, or 1.6 percent, to $62.50. Martin Marietta Materials, which sells granite, limestone, sand and gravel, fell $4.37, or 2 percent, to $213.88.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude lost 2 cents to $50.33 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, slipped 30 cents to $53.23 a barrel in London. Energy companies traded lower with the market as Hess fell $1.06, or 2.2 percent, to $47.15 and ConocoPhillips dipped 56 cents, or 1.1 percent, to $49.31. Natural gas companies dropped along with the price of that fuel.

NOVOCURE SURGES: Medical device company Novocure jumped after a study of its Optune device, which uses electric fields to fight cancer, appeared to improve survival for patients with aggressive brain tumors. Over the weekend the company said 13 percent of patients treated with the device as well as chemotherapy were still alive after five years, compared to 5 percent for the patients who received only chemotherapy. Many doctors are skeptical of the product, and it's costly, at $21,000 a month. Optune is sold in the U.S. and three other countries. Novocure stock climbed $3.48, or 42.9 percent, to $11.58.

IN THE PINK: The few gainers on the day included big health insurers. Cigna rose $2.48, or 1.7 percent, to $148.98 and Humana picked up $2.35, or 1.1 percent, to $208.49. Aetna and UnitedHealth rose as well.

CURRENCIES: The dollar sank to 110.98 yen from 111.29 yen and the euro fell to $1.0670 from $1.0684.

OVERSEAS: France's CAC 40 slipped 0.7 percent. The German DAX sank 0.5 percent, as did the FTSE 100 of Britain. Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 added 0.4 percent and the Kospi in South Korea rose 0.3 percent. Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 0.5 percent.

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