Wall St falls as bank stocks, Syria conflict weigh

VIDEO: REUTERS
Traders working on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange ahead of opening on April 12, 2018.
Traders working on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange ahead of opening on April 12, 2018. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - Financial stocks led a drop on Wall Street on Friday (April 13) as results from big banks failed to enthuse and fear of broader conflict in Syria further unnerved investors.

The S&P banks index fell 2.6 per cent and the broader S&P financial index lost 1.6 per cent, the most among the 11 major S&P sectors.

Shares of JPMorgan Chase & Co, the biggest US bank by assets, dropped 2.7 per cent after the bank's quarterly profit fell slightly short of expectations. JPMorgan shares were the biggest weight on the S&P 500.

Wells Fargo sank 3.4 per cent after the bank said it may have to pay a penalty of US$1 billion (S$1.3 billion) to resolve investigations, while Citigroup dropped 1.6 per cent despite beating profit estimates.

Weak loan growth weighed on bank shares, said RJ Grant, head of trading at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods in New York.

"If you didn't own financials going into the quarter, there was nothing in the numbers today that would make you excited about owning them," Grant said.

US stocks extended losses on Friday after the State Department said that it had proof that Syria carried out a recent chemical weapons attack in the town of Douma.

The renewed possibility of a strike in Syria "is enough to cause heartburn for the market," said Robert Phipps, a director at Per Stirling Capital Management in Austin, Texas. "There's a ton of uncertainty right now so investors don't want to go into the weekend particularly long."

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 122.91 points, or 0.5 per cent, to 24,360.14, the S&P 500 lost 7.69 points, or 0.29 per cent, to 2,656.3 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 33.60 points, or 0.47 per cent, to 7,106.65.

Still, for the week, the S&P 500 rose 1.99 per cent, the Dow gained 1.79 per cent, and the Nasdaq added 2.77 per cent.

Friday's bank results kicked off earnings season, with Thomson Reuters data predicting profits at S&P 500 companies increased by 18.6 per cent in the first quarter from a year ago, their biggest rise in seven years.

While the US economy is performing well, geopolitical issues are weighing on stock markets this year.

Senior Russian lawmakers said on Friday that the lower house of parliament would consider draft legislation giving the Kremlin powers to ban or restrict a list of US imports, reacting to new US sanctions on Russian tycoons and officials.

Boeing fell 2.4 per cent after a Russian lawmaker said the country may stop supplying titanium to the company.

Issues with engines for Boeing's 787 Dreamliner planes also weighed on the company's shares.

The top gainer among S&P sectors was energy, up 1.1 per cent as oil prices rose.

Tesla rose 2.1 per cent after founder Elon Musk said the electric car maker would be profitable in the third and fourth quarters and would not need to raise any money this year.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 1.28-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.64-to-1 ratio favoured decliners.

Volume on US exchanges was 5.78 billion shares, compared to the 7.22 billion average for the full session over the last 20 trading days.