US Markets Begin the Month Mixed on Familiar Concerns

Key Takeaways

  • Major U.S. equities indexes were mixed on the first day of March as unease over interest rates and the economy kept its hold on the markets.
  • The Nasdaq and the S&P 500 ended Wednesday’s session with losses of around 0.7% and 0.5%, respectively, while the Dow scraped out a meager gain.
  • Energy stocks were among the day’s best performers, with fossil fuel-related and solar stocks pushing higher.

U.S. equities started March mixed on concerns about inflation, interest rates, and the economy. Two Fed bank presidents said borrowing costs need to keep going up to fight inflation, and a report on U.S. manufacturing showed contraction for a fourth consecutive month. The Dow posted a fractional gain, while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq lost about 0.5%.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note hit 4% and was at its highest level since early November. That pulled down shares of several big tech companies, which are less attractive when borrowing costs rise. Shares of Apple (AAPL), Amazon (AMZN), and Microsoft (MSFT) slipped. Tesla (TSLA) shares were lower ahead of the electric vehicle (EV) maker’s investor day event. Another EV firm, Rivian Automotive (RIVN), had its shares crater as it missed revenue estimates and recalled almost 13,000 of its EVs to fix a faulty sensor.

It was a tough day for retail stocks. Lowe’s (LOW) shares sank after the home improvement retailer reported fourth quarter revenue and full-year guidance that were short of forecasts. Shares of rival Home Depot (HD) tumbled as well. A bigger-than-expected loss, declining sales, and a weak outlook dragged down shares of Kohl’s (KSS). Two other retailers, Advance Auto Parts (AAP) and Target (TGT), were among the worst-performing stocks in the S&P 500.

Energy Stocks Climb

The list of best-performing stocks in the index was dominated by fossil fuel-related firms, led by Valero Energy (VLO), Phillips 66 (PSX), Marathon Petroleum (MPC), and EOG Resources (EOG). However, the top spot went to First Solar (FSLR), as shares reached an all-time high after the solar panel maker’s financial report and guidance came in better than expected. Shares of SolarEdge Technologies (SEDG), Enphase Energy (ENPH), and others in the sector also rose.

Caterpillar (CAT) shares added almost 4% as the manufacturer of big construction equipment reached a contract agreement with the United Auto Workers Union, averting a potential strike. 3M (MMM) shares climbed 2% after the conglomerate indicated that data from the Defense Department boosted its case in a class action lawsuit involving its earplugs. 

Oil futures came off earlier losses and were up. Gold prices added 0.4%. The U.S. dollar gained versus the pound but was down versus the euro and yen. Major cryptocurrencies traded higher.