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U.S. stocks traded lower in afternoon activity Monday, as steep losses in energy stocks, following a drop in oil prices, continued to weigh on the main indexes.

The S&P 500 was off by 5 points, or 0.3%, to 2,027, with seven of its 10 main sectors trading lower. The S&P 500 energy sector was down more than 2%.

Morgan Stanley (MS) was one of the biggest decliners among S&P 500 stocks, skidding 5.7% after the New York–based bank’s third-quarter earnings and revenue badly missed analysts’ estimates (

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was off by 21 points, or 0.1%, to 17,194 with Exxon Mobil Corp.(XOM) and Chevron Corp.(CVX) leading losses, each declining about 2%. The Nasdaq Composite retreated 3 points, or less than 0.1%, to 4,884.

Stocks had switched between small gains and losses in earlier activity, but returned to negative territory by midafternoon.

“This earnings season is going to be tough. We have already been seeing a lot of misses and downbeat guidance. And when there are growth fears, investors begin to questions if the market deserves current price-to-earnings ratios of 16,” said Joseph Saluzzi, co-founder and co-head of equity trading at Themis Trading.

Saluzzi said earnings-growth fears may send the market back to August lows. “I would not be surprised to see the Fed actually come and do another round of [quantitative easing] if the stock market falls considerably,” he said.

Data pointing to deceleration by the world’s second-largest economy added to a cautious mood in global equity markets. Chinese economic growth slowed to 6.9% in the third quarter (, below Beijing’s 7% target for the first time since 2009, but above forecasts for growth of 6.8%. Asian markets closed mixed ( in the wake of the data, while European equities ( were mostly flat, though commodities-related stocks fell.

“The fall in China’s [GDP to below 7% in the third quarter] was widely expected,” said Nour Al-Hammoury, chief market strategist at ADS Securities, in a note on Monday. But a slowdown in industrial production and fixed-asset investment “did surprise the markets.”

Read more:China’s GDP at 6.9%? Try 3% (

Movers and shakers: Shares of Halliburton Co(HAL) fell 2.2% after third-quarter results ( Lower oil prices put pressure on other oil stocks, such as Marathon Petroleum Corp.(MPC) and Murphy Oil Corp.(MUR), both down about 3%.

Hasbro Inc.(HAS) shares dropped 5.4% even after the toy maker’s quarterly profit topped forecasts.

Read:Microsoft, Amazon, former Google headline peak earnings week (

Shares of Weight Watchers International Inc.(WTW) soared 60% to $10.98 after the weight-management services company said Oprah Winfrey was taking a 10% stake (

See: Oprah Winfrey’s purse just got $50 million heavier (

Wex Inc.(WEX), a corporate-payments technology company, said it reached a nearly $1.5 billion cash-and-stock deal ( to acquire transportation-services payments company Electronic Funds Source LLC. Wex shares rose 5.6%.

Other markets:Crude futures ( dropped 2.6%, as China’s third-quarter GDP data underscored worries about slowing consumption, and Iran said it doesn’t expect OPEC to change ( its current output policies.