Nasdaq ends sharply lower in tech sell-off

The Nasdaq ended sharply lower on Tuesday as investors dumped mega cap growth stocks amid concerns about rising interest rates and uncertainty over an upcoming jobs report.

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - The Nasdaq ended sharply lower on Tuesday (May 4) as investors dumped megacap growth stocks to seek shelter in more defensive parts of the market, amid concerns on rising interest rate and uncertainty over an upcoming jobs report.

Highly valued technology-related companies including Microsoft, Alphabet, Apple, Amazon.com and Facebook sold off across the board, with Apple falling the most by 3.54 per cent. The Philadelphia Semiconductor Index also dropped by 1.6 per cent.

Volume on US exchanges was 12.21 billion shares, the highest in over a month.

"When we have pauses or pullbacks, people tend to move out of growth stocks into more defensive names," said Randy Frederick, vice-president of trading and derivatives for Charles Schwab in Austin, Texas.

Materials and financials extended their Monday gains, up by 1 per cent and 0.7 per cent, respectively, as investors continued to rotate money into cyclical sectors.

The Nasdaq Composite dropped 261.62 points, or 1.88 per cent, to 13,633.50, while the S&P 500 lost 28 points, or 0.67 per cent, to 4,164.66.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average pared its earlier losses and closed slightly higher, rising 19.8 points, or 0.06 per cent, to 34,133.03.

Comments by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on the potential need for interest rate hikes further exacerbated the tech sell-off, as investors worry higher rates would weigh on valuations of growth companies.

"It may be that interest rates will have to rise somewhat to make sure that our economy doesn't overheat, even though the additional spending is relatively small relative to the size of the economy," she said in taped comments at a virtual event by The Atlantic.

"Wall Street won't find out if the Fed is making a policy mistake until several months down the road and that is making some traders nervous," Edward Moya, senior market analyst at Oanda wrote in a note, adding investors look for clarity on economic recovery from Friday's nonfarm payroll report.

Fiscal stimulus, rapid vaccinations and the Federal Reserve's accommodative stance have spurred a strong rebound in the US economy and pushed Wall Street to record highs this year. The so-called "pandemic winners," however, have recently started to fall out of favour.

Among individual stocks, CVS Health gained 4.4 per centafter reporting a first-quarter profit above analysts'estimates and raising its 2021 forecast.

Gartner was the largest percentage gainer on the S&P 500, jumping 14.2 per cent after better-than-expected first-quarter earnings.

In extended trade, T-Mobile rose 2.8 per cent after the telecom firm raised its full-year postpaid subscriber net addition forecast.

Results in this earnings season so far have been largely upbeat. Average profits at S&P 500 companies are expected to have risen 47.7 per cent in the quarter, compared with forecasts of a 24 per cent growth at the start of April, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 1.47-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 2.60-to-1 ratio favoured decliners.

The S&P 500 posted 97 new 52-week highs and no new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 109 new highs and 99 new lows.