Market Wrap: Stocks Down on Data; Post Strong Monthly Gain

Financial Markets Wall Street
Richard Drew/AP

By Caroline Valetkevitch

NEW YORK — The SP 500 posted its best monthly gain since October 2011 on Friday, but U.S. stocks ended lower for the day as U.S. economic growth slowed more sharply than initially thought in the fourth quarter.

The SP 500 gained 5.5 percent for the month, while the Nasdaq rose 7.1 percent, its best monthly performance since January 2012. The strong gains have pushed the Nasdaq within striking distance of the 5,000 mark and record highs set in March 2000.

We started off with the GDP report which was a bit underwhelming. That maybe set a tone for the market that it wasn’t wildly ebullient.

A separate economic report showed a gauge of business activity in the U.S. Midwest dropped to its lowest reading since July 2009 in February.

“We started off with the GDP report which was a bit underwhelming. That maybe set a tone for the market that it wasn’t wildly ebullient,” said Mark Luschini, chief investment strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott in Philadelphia.

Apple, down 1.5 percent at $128.46, weighed on both the SP 500 and Nasdaq. Investors may have been taking profits ahead of Apple’s (AAPL) expected unveiling of its smartwatch March 9, said Kim Forrest, senior equity research analyst, Fort Pitt Capital Group in Pittsburgh.

Among other decliners, J.C. Penney (JCP) dropped 6.8 percent to $8.50 after the retailer posted a surprise quarterly loss and forecast small margin improvements this year.

The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) fell 81.72 points, or 0.45 percent, to 18,132.7, the Standard Poor’s 500 index (^GSPC) lost 6.24 points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,104.5 and the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) dropped 24.36 points, or 0.49 percent, to 4,963.53.

After a sluggish start to the year, stocks rebounded sharply in February. The Dow rose 5.6 percent in the month, its best monthly performance since January 2013.

Movers and Shakers

Shares of Monster Beverage (MNST) jumped 13.1 percent to $141.12, the biggest percentage gainer in the SP 500 and Nasdaq. Thomson Reuters (TRI) data shows SP 500 earnings increased 6.8 percent in the fourth quarter, above expectations at the start of this quarter.

Bank of America (BAC) shares lost 1.4 percent to $15.81. The company said two members of its board of directors and its chief accounting officer will be leaving the company in coming weeks. UBS (UBS) also cut its rating on the stock to “neutral” from “buy.”

Volume was again low. About 6.5 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, below the 6.8 billion average for the month, according to BATS Global Markets.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by 1,567 to 1,485, for a 1.06-to-1 ratio; on the Nasdaq, 1,694 issues fell and 1,048 advanced, for a 1.62-to-1 ratio favoring decliners.

The SP 500 posted 26 new 52-week highs and 2 new lows; the Nasdaq composite recorded 93 new highs and 27 new lows.

What to watch Monday:

  • The Commerce Department releases personal income and spending for January at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time.
  • At 10 a.m., the Institute for Supply Management releases its manufacturing index for February, and the Commerce Department releases construction spending for January.

Earnings Season
These selected companies are schedule to release quarterly financial results:

  • Luxottica Group (LUX)
  • Mylan (MYL)
  • Nabors Industries (NBR)
  • Palo Alto Networks (PANW)
  • Sotheby’s (BID)
  • While everyone’s heading to Cancun and the Caymans, you can enjoy an equally relaxing and beautiful vacation for less by choosing a destination that isn’t quite so popular.

    Off-the-beaten-path destinations like Roatan, Honduras (pictured), Tobago and Grenada offer sandy beaches and plenty of sun at a more affordable cost than traditional hotspots. If you’re really in the mood for something different, find a city on the map you’ve always been curious about and head to Airbnb to snag discount accommodations there. Airbnb rentals aren’t just rooms in people’s houses; you can also rent a yurt, a modern loft, a houseboat, a beach house and more.

    1. Vacation off the beaten path

  • 2. Never pay full price

  • In the market for a new car? If you want to splurge a little and get a set of wheels that gets you noticed, consider buying a gently used, preowned vehicle. According to, you can get a used luxury car for $30,000 or less — the equivalent of buying a new middle-of-the-line four-door sedan.

    No one needs to know your “new-to-you” Acura isn’t technically new; all they’ll know is you’ve got an Acura.

    ​3. Buy a preowned car

  • 4. Splurge on small luxuries

  • Move to a city with a lower cost of living — or move from a fancy ZIP code to a more modest neighborhood — and you can get a bigger, nicer-quality home for the same price.

    That said, “bigger” isn’t always “better.” Don’t buy more home than you need; rather, focus on getting the best home for your needs. For instance, you may find you love a modern and updated two-bedroom condo in a nice building much more than you enjoy owning a four-bedroom single-family house that you have to maintain yourself. Or you may discover the opposite. The key is to buy a home that suits you – not the home that society says you should own at a particular stage of life.

    5. Get more home for your money

  • Stock your closet with high-quality, well-constructed staples that will last you year after year and won’t fall out of style. Think: a white button-down shirt, a dark pair of dress pants, a flattering pair of dark wash jeans, a classic coat like a pea coat or trench coat. (Notice that these recommendations apply to both men and women.)

    These foundational pieces can be used to create a wide variety of outfits, and you can keep your look current by updating it each year with a few select accessories like scarves. It’s much less expensive than revamping your whole closet each season to stay on top of the trends.

    6. Build a renewable wardrobe

  • More from Paula Pant

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