It was a rough start to the holiday-shortened week as rising geopolitical tensions between the U.S. and Russia – and a rare revenue miss from Home Depot (HD (opens in new tab)) – sent stocks tumbling Tuesday.
Investors also got hit with some stronger-than-expected economic data, which heightened fears that the Fed could keep interest rates higher for longer. All of this sparked a risk-off session that resulted in substantial losses for the major benchmarks.
Geopolitical headlines from over the weekend created shaky footing for stocks ahead of Tuesday’s opening bell. Specifically, U.S. President Joe Biden made a surprise appearance in Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday alongside Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. This unexpected visit was followed by reports that Russian President Vladimir Putin said he is suspending the country’s participation in a nuclear arms treaty with the United States.
Headwinds for the broad market only strengthened after an early morning earnings report from major retailer Home Depot. Shares slid 7.1% – easily making HD the worst Dow Jones stock today – after the home improvement retailer reported modest year-over-year increases in its fourth-quarter earnings and revenue. However, revenue fell short of Wall Street’s consensus estimate, the first time HD has missed on the top line since November 2018. The company also saw a 6% year-over-year decline in customer transactions, though inflation boosted the average ticket cost.
As for today’s economic data, the S&P Global flash services purchasing managers index (PMI) and manufacturing PMI both came in higher than expected. But while the latter showed factory activity increased from January to February, it is still in contraction territory.
“The U.S. economy is finding its balance as demand for services picked up in February,” says Jeffrey Roach, chief economist at LPL Financial. “A tight labor market and resilient consumer demand could goad the Federal Reserve to maintain its rate hiking campaign into the summertime. Investors should expect volatility until markets and central bankers come to agreement on the expected path for interest rates.”
At the close, the Nasdaq Composite was off 2.5% at 11,492, the S&P 500 was 2.0% lower at 3,997, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 2.1% at 33,129.
Walmart stock shines after earnings
One name that showed resilience today was big-box retailer Walmart (WMT (opens in new tab)). The company reported top- and bottom-line beats for Q4, and said it saw an 8.3% rise in same-store sales and a 17% jump in e-commerce sales. Additionally, in the company’s earnings call, Chief Financial Officer John Rainey said inventory was flat on a year-over-year basis, and down 3% for Walmart U.S. Excess inventory was a major concern for retailers in mid-2022.
This sent WMT stock up 0.6% today, making it the best Dow Jones stock – and the only blue chip that finished higher. In addition to its solid earnings report, WMT benefited from being one of the best consumer staples stocks around. This sector typically outperforms in periods of market turbulence for several reasons, including the fact that its constituents sell items that people need in both good times and bad, such as toilet paper or packaged foods. A number also happen to be some of the best dividend stocks on Wall Street, offering consistent and reliable income to help offset broad-market declines.