U.S. stocks fall for the week after insurers take hit on Irma risk

Big 5
Major U.S. equity indexes posted weekly declines as Hurricane Irma barreled toward the east coast while interest rates hampered financial stocks.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 189.77 points for the week while the S&P 500 fell 0.61 percent over the same period. The Nasdaq composite dropped 1.17 percent since Tuesday. Markets were closed Monday for Labor Day.

In Friday’s trading, the S&P 500 fell 0.15 percent to close at 2,461.43, with energy and information technology contributing the largest losses. The Nasdaq composite fell 0.59 percent, settling at 6,360.19, with large-cap stocks Apple and Google-parent Alphabet both down.

The Dow rose 13.01 points to close at 21,797.79, with Travelers Companies and Boeing contributing the most to the gains.

“Today is sort of a hunker-down sort of day,” said Kate Warne, investment strategist at Edward Jones. “After insurance stocks dropped sharply earlier in the week, investors are seeing them as an opportunity and hoping Irma isn’t as bad as feared.”

“We’ll see stocks hover around flatline,” she added.

Shares of major insurance companies fell earlier in the weekahead of Hurricane Irma’s landfall in Florida, but managed to clinch a solid rebound Friday afternoon.

XL Group and RenaissanceRe traded 5.8 percent and 4.13 percent higher, but remained 4.95 percent and 6.35 percent lower for the week, respectively.

Restaurant companies including Fiesta Restaurant Group and Ruth’s Hospitality Group, which operates Ruth’s Chris Steak House, also posted week-to-date declines. Outback Steakhouse owner Bloomin’ Brands fell 2.7 percent since Tuesday.

Irma was downgraded from a category 5 to a category 4 early on Friday, but the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) warned that the storm will “devastate” parts of the country, reported Reuters. The storm lashed the Caribbean with devastating winds and torrential rain, leaving behind 14 deaths and a swathe of catastrophic destruction.

Home improvement and materials companies surged ahead of the storm’s projected destruction in Florida. Home Depot climbed 1.10 percent and Lowe’s added 1.13 percent on Friday, while Lumber Liquidators’ stock added another 1.94 percent to its weekly gains.

Bank stocks caught a breather after falling throughout the week, as demand for safe haven assets steadily increased while investors grew more doubtful over a hike in interest rates by year’s end.

Shares of both U.S. Bancorp and Citigroup rose, paring back weekly losses as the yield on the U.S. 10-year Treasury lingered around 2.06 percent. Wall Street now sees just 34 percent likelihood for a December rate hike, accord to CME Group’s Fedwatch tool.

“I think beyond [Hurricane Irma] the focus is really on U.S. Treasury yields,” said FBN Securities Chief Market Strategist Jeremy Klein. “The 2 percent figure is pretty psychological.”

“If you break through that level, economists are going to have to sit down and really think about what’s happening here.”

Rising geopolitical tensions over North Korea have also pushed investors to buy safe haven currencies and bonds ahead of the country’s Foundation Day holiday, when it conducted a nuclear test a year ago.

Meanwhile, shares of Equifax fell more than 13 percent after the credit reporting agency revealed a massive data breach that exposed personal information of as many as 143 million consumers. The company also said three executives who sold shares days after the breach was discovered were unaware of the event.

The euro extended its weekly advance over the greenback after the European Central Bank boosted its growth forecast on Thursday. Though Wall Street expects the euro’s ascent to moderate, the euro gained 0.1 percent Friday after a 1 percent climb against the greenback Thursday.

Investors digested Thursday’s comments from ECB President Mario Draghi, after the central bank decided to leave its benchmark interest rate unchanged at its September meeting. Draghi hinted at starting to reduce the central bank’s bond-buying program as early as next month.

Collaboration between President Donald Trump and Democratic leaders has garnered attention from the Street this week. The Senate on Thursday approved a package that includes Hurricane Harvey recovery funds, a debt ceiling extension and temporary government funding.

The package came after Trump signaled his approval for the Democratic plan on Wednesday, hinting at possible compromises on future spending initiatives.

U.S. wholesale inventories rose more than expected in July, nearly matching its biggest gain in six months recorded in June.

The Commerce Department reported an 0.6 percent increase in wholesale inventories in July, more than the 0.4 percent increase expected by economists polled by Reuters.

Source: CNBC