Shaky results from consumer companies dragged the U.S. stock market lower Tuesday as shares of well-known names such as appliance maker Whirlpool and athletic apparel maker Under Armour suffered their worst declines in years.
Third-quarter earnings continued to dominate the market, and some of the biggest companies reported disappointing results or lowered their expectations. Investors wondered if consumers will spend less money on home improvement, clothing and other goods. But companies including Procter & Gamble and Lockheed Martin soared after their reports. Looking for safer options, some investors bought bonds and utility company shares.
Consumer spending is crucial to the U.S. economy, and poor results for consumer-focused companies could be a sign of trouble. But Doug Roman, managing director of equities for PNC Capital Advisors, said it's too soon to know if shoppers are closing their wallets.
"The market might be extrapolating bigger stories into broader themes, which might not be the case," he said. Corporate earnings have been falling for more than a year, and despite Tuesday's results, investors are growing hopeful that streak is ending.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 53.76 points, or 0.3%, to 18,169.27. The Standard & Poor's 500 index slid 8.17 points, or 0.4%, to 2,143.16. The Nasdaq composite sank 26.43 points, or 0.5%, to 5,283.40.
Paint and coatings maker Sherwin-Williams had its worst day in seven years, falling 10.9% to $247.61, after it posted a disappointing profit and cut its annual guidance because of slower sales growth combined with spending on new stores.
Appliance maker Whirlpool had its biggest drop in five years, falling 10.8% to $152.09, after the owner of Maytag and KitchenAid reported results that fell far short of analyst projections.
Home improvement retailers Home Depot and Lowe's and flooring maker Mohawk Industries all slumped. So did automaker General Motors, which reported solid earnings.
Under Armour tumbled 13.2% to $32.89, its biggest drop in almost eight years, after reporting its slowest sales growth in six years and saying its future sales won't be as strong as it expected a year ago. Rival Nike also slipped.
Meanwhile, a report showed that consumer confidence fell in October as consumers got a bit more pessimistic about business conditions and their employment prospects. The Conference Board had said consumer confidence reached a 20-month high in September.
Procter & Gamble, which makes Tide detergent and Charmin toilet paper, had its best day in more than a year, rising 3.4% to $86.97, after it reported better results than investors expected. The consumer products giant has been selling some businesses to cut costs, and it posted stronger sales of personal care products such as toothbrushes and deodorants.
Aerospace and defense company Lockheed Martin jumped 7.4% to $249.26, its biggest leap in seven years, after it surpassed investor forecasts and raised its projections for the year.
The reports continued to stream in after the market closed. Apple reported lower quarterly sales and sold fewer iPhones, sending its stock down about 2% in late trading. The company did give a better-than-expected forecast for the holiday season.
Oil and gas drilling services company Baker Hughes climbed 4.3% to $54.39 after it disclosed a smaller loss than investors expected. Investors were also pleased that Baker Hughes is preparing to cut more costs. The company said it plans to eliminate $650 million in spending this year, up from the $500 million it had planned to cut.
Waters Corp., which makes products used in drug development, slid 12.1% to $138.60 after it announced weak revenue as demand from governments, research institutions and industries fell.
Drugmaker Merck rose 2% to $61.95 after reporting a bigger profit on greater sales of vaccines and cancer medicines and raising its forecasts. The company has also been trying to keep is spending in check.
3M declined 2.9% to $166.23 after the maker of Post-it notes, industrial coatings and ceramics forecast weaker sales growth and a smaller profit for the year.
Elevator and jet engine manufacturer United Technologies climbed 1.8% to $101.36 after it posted third-quarter profit that topped analyst estimates and raised its annual forecast.
Media and marketing information company Nielsen took its biggest loss ever, falling 16.9% to $45.65, after it reported shaky results and cut its guidance.
Benchmark U.S. crude fell 56 cents, or 1.1%, to $49.96 per barrel in New York. Brent crude, the international standard, fell 67 cents, or 1.3%, to $50.79 a barrel in London.
Bond prices edged higher. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 1.76% from 1.77%. Investors also bought shares of utility companies.
Wholesale gasoline stayed at $1.50 a gallon. Heating oil fell 2 cents to $1.56 a gallon. Natural gas sank 6 cents, or 2%, to $2.77 per 1,000 cubic feet.
The price of gold rose $9.90 to $1,273.60 an ounce. Silver jumped 18 cents, or 1%, to $17.78 an ounce. Copper rose 5 cents, or 2.2%, to $2.14 a pound.
The dollar slipped to 104.22 yen from 104.24 yen. The euro rose to $1.0892 from $1.0879.
In Britain, the FTSE 100 rose 0.4%. France's CAC 40 lost 0.3%, and the DAX in Germany was little changed. Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 0.8%, and South Korea's Kospi fell 0.5%. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong slipped 0.2%.
2:55 p.m.: This article was updated with closing prices, analysis and additional market information.
1:25 p.m.: This article was updated with the close of markets.
7:50 a.m.: This article was updated with more recent prices and additional market information.