Market Wrap: U.S. Stocks Move Lower on Tension Overseas

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UKRAINE-RUSSIA-CRISIS-POLITICS-MILITARY
Anatoli Stepanov/AFP/Getty ImagesA serviceman postures on an APC in the Donetsk region of Ukraine. The current fighting, and the potential for worse to come, is spooking investors worldwide.

By KEN SWEET

NEW YORK — The stock market pulled back slightly Tuesday, following two days of gains, as investors focused on the damage that ongoing geopolitical tensions were causing the global economy.

Energy stocks were among the biggest decliners, dragged down by lower oil prices.

U.S. stock indexes opened modestly higher but turned lower at mid-morning and stayed there for the rest of the day. Investors took a cue from Europe, where Germany’s benchmark index fell more than 1 percent and France’s CAC 40 fell nearly 1 percent.

An indicator of German investor confidence dropped to its lowest level in 20 months. Investors worried that the Ukraine crisis will start dragging down the German economy, Europe’s largest. The continent is much more exposed to Russia than the U.S. is. Europe also gets most of its natural gas from Russia.

The Ukraine situation has dragged the German stock market down more than 8 percent from its early July peak.

“The Ukraine-Russia situation may be at a standstill politically, but it is weighing on the German economy and, more broadly, the eurozone,” said Sean Lynch, a managing director at Wells Fargo Private Bank.

It has been a quiet week for investors overall, with little economic data or company earnings to work through. Absent hard data to pull the market higher, the current trend for the market is down, Lynch said.

Fears of a Russian invasion of Ukraine have faded in recent days, but worries about conflicts around the globe are likely to keep investors on edge in the coming weeks.

A convoy of more than 260 Russian trucks, reportedly packed with supplies, moved toward Russia’s border with Ukraine on Tuesday, but Kiev said the goods would only be allowed to cross if they were inspected by the International Red Cross. Ukraine is fearful that Russia could use the move as a cover for sending troops into the separatist-held territory.

Investors are also watching political machinations and violence unfold in oil-rich Iraq. On Tuesday, that nation’s embattled prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, tried to stay in power as Iraqi politicians and the international community rallied behind a political competitor.

The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) lost 9.44 points, or 0.1 percent, to 16,560.54. The Standard Poor’s 500 index (^GPSC) fell 3.17 points, or 0.2 percent, to 1,933.75 and the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) fell 12.08 points, or 0.3 percent, to 4,389.25.

Energy stocks in the SP 500 fell 0.7 percent, the most of the 10 sectors in the index. Kinder Morgan declined nearly 2 percent after rising 9 percent the day before on news it would combine several companies under its control. Anadarko Petroleum (APC) and Diamond Offshore Drilling (DO) fell more than 2 percent.

Energy stocks have declined noticeably in the last month, due largely to falling oil and natural gas prices. Brent crude, which is traded in the U.K. and is considered a broader gauge of the international oil market, is trading at a nine-month low. U.S. crude is trading at a seven-month low.

The price of U.S. crude oil slipped 71 cents to $97.37 a barrel Tuesday. That followed three days of increases over concerns about the reliability of Iraqi oil production.

There were other signs that investors were in a “risk-off” mode. The Russell 2000 index, which is made up primarily of smaller and riskier companies, fell 0.8 percent, much more than the rest of the market.

In individual stocks, Kate Spade (KATE) plunged $9.87, or 25 percent, to $29 after executives for the handbag company warned that sales growth could slow this year and profit margins were being hit. The comments came after Kate Spade reported a better-than-expected quarterly profit.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.45 percent. In metals trading, gold rose 10 cents to $1,310.60 an ounce, silver fell 19 cents to $19.51 an ounce and copper fell two cents to $3.15 a pound.

What to Watch Wednesday:

  • The Commerce Department releases retail sales data for July at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time, and business inventories for June at 10 a.m.

These major companies are scheduled to release quarterly financial statements:

  • Cisco Systems (CSCO)
  • Deere Co. (DE)
  • Macy’s (M)
  • Pinnacle Foods (PF)
  • SeaWorld Entertainment (SEAS)
  • Yes they can.

    The CARD Act did get rid of the most outrageous abuse: they can no longer increase the interest rate on existing balances unless you go 60 days past due.

    However, you need to remember that:

    • Most credit card interest rates are variable and are linked to the prime rate. Your high rate will only go higher when interest rates increase.
    • Based upon risk, your credit card company can still increase your interest rate on all future purchases. Your existing balances are protected, but future purchases would be at the higher rate. And determining risk is not limited to your behavior on your existing card. If you miss a payment with another lender, that could lead to an increase on all of your credit cards.
    • After 12 months, they can increase your rate for almost any reason. But the increased rate only applies to future purchases, and they need to give you 45 days notice.

    Credit cards are incredibly expensive ways to borrow money. If you use a card, your goal should be to pay off the balance in full every month. Then, the interest rate doesn’t matter.

    Bottom line: If you do have debt, you should never be paying the purchase APR. Look for a balance transfer, or get a personal loan to cut your interest rate. And take a long hard look at your spending to put more money towards paying off that debt.
     

    1. My credit card company cannot raise my interest rate

  • No, they are not.

    There is a big difference between a 0% balance transfer (where the interest is waived during the promotional period, discussed above) and 0% purchase financing offered at many stores (where the interest is only deferred).

    I regularly encourage people to use balance transfers to help them pay off their debt faster. With a balance transfer, interest is switched off or reduced during the promotional period. Once the promotional period is over, interest starts to accrue on a go-forward basis. This can take years off your debt repayment.

    But stores offer 0 percent financing at the checkout. With a lot of these programs, interest is charged from the purchase date if you do not pay off the balance in full during the promotional period. So, if you have a 12-month 0 percent offer -– and do not pay off the balance in 12 months -– then in month 13 you will be charged a full 13 months of interest. They retroactively charge interest, and it will be like you never had a 0 percent offer at all.

     

    This is a common practice. Online, Apple (AAPL) does this, via their partnership with Barclaycard (BCS).

    And stores like Walmart (WMT) do the same thing.

    Bottom line: I don’t like deferred interest deals. Most people do not understand the difference between waived and deferred interest, and this practice feels deceptive. If you take one of these offers, make sure you pay off the balance in full before the promotion expires.
     

    2. All 0% offers are the same

  • Not always.

    Credit card companies have different rates for different types of transactions. The interest rate charged on a purchase (high) is different from a balance transfer APR (low).

    Before the CARD Act, banks would apply your payment to the lowest APR balance first. Imagine you have a $1,000 balance. $500 is at 0 percent (balance transfer), and the other $500 is at 18 percent (purchase). If you make a $100 payment, banks would apply that to the balance transfer. That way, they reduce the balance transfer (at 0 percent) to $400, while protecting the $500 purchase balance (at 18 percent).

    The CARD Act changed that. Banks now need to apply payments to the highest interest rate first. But this only applies to payments higher than the minimum due.

    If you only pay the minimum due every month, your payment will still likely be applied to the lowest interest rate balance first.

    Bottom line: You should never spend and have a balance transfer on the same credit card. Banks can only “trap” balances when you have multiple balance types on one card.

    3. My credit card payment always goes to the highest interest rate first

  • Not exactly true.

    The CARD Act has stopped the handout of T-shirts on the steps of the school libraries, but they can still give sign-on bonuses. And they advertise on campus. For example, Citibank (C) has a “Thank You Preferred” card for college students. If you spend $500 in the first three months, you get 2,500 thank you points as a bonus. That is $25 of value.

    Bottom line: I actually find this worse. Before, you got a free T-shirt just for signing up. Now, the credit card companies encourage spend on the card for the “free gift.”

    4. College students can’t get freebies to sign up for credit cards

  • In the past, banks would charge you a fee if you went over your credit limit. Today, the CARD Act requires banks to receive your consent to charge an over-limit fee. So, in most cases, banks just eliminated those fees — which is good news (kind of).

    You can still go over your credit limit, if the bank approves your transaction. But the full amount by which you’ve exceeded your limit will be part of your minimum payment come the next bill, which could cause a payment shock.

    More importantly, utilization (the percentage of your available credit that you use) is a big factor in your credit score. Your credit score determines the price you pay for credit. So, if you’re over-limit on an account, you are considered riskier. That can result in the credit card company increasing your interest rate. And it could also result in other lenders increasing your rates with them. So you do pay, but it’s an indirect cost.

    Bottom line: We’re glad the fee is gone, but you still need to be diligent and try to avoid going over your limit. If you pay your balance in full every month but are frequently bumping up against your credit limit, ask for a credit line increase.

    5. It no longer costs me to go over the limit on my credit card

  • Completely false.

    I have heard from so many people that the way to eliminate overdraft fees is to opt out of overdraft protection. But it is impossible to completely opt out of overdraft.

    Federal regulation requires consumers to opt into overdraft protection only for debit and ATM transactions.

    But, the regulation does not cover checks and electronic transactions (including bill-pay and monthly direct debits, like gym memberships). The banks have all the power. If they approve the transaction, you would be charged an overdraft fee (typically $35 per transaction at banks and $25 at credit unions). If they decline the transaction, then you would be charged an NSF fee (non-sufficient funds), which is usually just as expensive as the overdraft fee.

    Bottom line: You can’t opt out of all overdraft fees. To avoid them, keep a buffer or find an account, like Ally, that doesn’t charge those junk fees.

    6. I opted out of overdraft protection for checking to avoid those fees

  • Not always true.

    To be protected, you need to report the fraudulent transaction within 60 days. Otherwise, you give up a lot of your rights.

    On ATM/debit cards, the bank can make you responsible for up to $500 of fraud if you report more than two days (but less than 60 days) after the transaction. On a credit card, you would never be liable for more than $50 (and most banks won’t even hold you accountable for $50.)

    One area where you will almost always lose is when your Personal Identification Number is used. If someone manages to get your PIN and takes money out of your account, then the bank will almost always assume that you authorized the transaction. Make sure you change your PIN often and never write it down.

    Bottom line: Avoiding liability it your responsibility. Track your transactions regularly and call as soon as you detect any suspicious activity. And make sure you never share your PIN with anyone, or make it obvious.

    7. If there is fraud on my debit or credit card, I am always protected

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