By Caroline Valetkevitch
NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. stocks eased on Wednesday as Treasury bond yields fell again and a prolonged inversion in the yield curve fanned fears of a U.S. economic slowdown.
Benchmark 10-year Treasury yields slid, but came off 15-month lows reached overnight, as investors remained focused on central bank dovishness globally.
The yield curve inverted for the first time since 2007 on Friday and, if the inversion persists, some experts say it could indicate a recession is likely in one to two years.
Bank and financial stocks fell, with the S&P 500 financial index ending down 0.4 percent.
“The inverted yield curve, that’s what worries investors and it’s why you’re getting selling here. It’s definitely a slowing economy indicator, and whether it goes into a recession or not, nobody really knows. But it will put a pause in the market,” said Alan Lancz, president of Alan B. Lancz & Associates Inc, an investment advisory firm based in Toledo, Ohio.
Worries about global growth have risen recently amid weak economic data, and the Federal Reserve last week abandoned projections for any interest rate hikes this year.
The European Central Bank became the latest central bank to delay a planned increase in rates amid rising threats to growth.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 32.14 points, or 0.13 percent, to 25,625.59, the S&P 500 lost 13.09 points, or 0.46 percent, to 2,805.37 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 48.15 points, or 0.63 percent, to 7,643.38.
Lennar Corp rose 3.9 percent as the No. 2 U.S. homebuilder said it expected the housing market to improve, while shares of KB Home, which reported upbeat results late Tuesday, were up 2.7 percent.
Also helping was a survey that showed mortgage applications in the week ended March 22 rose nearly 9 percent amid lower interest rates, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.
Centene Corp’s shares fell 5 percent after the health insurer said it would buy smaller rival WellCare Health Plans Inc for $15.27 billion. Shares of WellCare jumped 12.3 percent.
Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 1.26-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.39-to-1 ratio favored decliners.
The S&P 500 posted 29 new 52-week highs and 6 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 32 new highs and 64 new lows.
Volume on U.S. exchanges was 6.97 billion shares, compared with the 7.64 billion-share average for the full session over the last 20 trading days.
(Reporting by Caroline Valetkevitch; additional reporting by Shreyashi Sanyal and Amy Caren Daniel in Bengaluru; editing by Jonathan Oatis)