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Government bond yields top 3% for the first time in more than four years

By Riva Gold and

Allison Prang

  • Treasury yield hits 3%
  • Earnings buoy stocks, but U.S. indexes fall
  • Crude oil falls

U.S. stocks fell Tuesday on a series of mixed earnings reports, while the benchmark U.S. government bond yield topped 3% for the first time in more than four years.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 280 points, or 1.2%, to 24168. The S&P 500 dropped 0.8% and the Nasdaq Composite fell 1.4%.

The S&P 500’s industrials, materials and technology sectors led the declines, overshadowing gains by safety plays like utility, real-estate and telecommunications stocks.

Shares of 3M dropped 7.9%, subtracting more than 100 points from the Dow, after the company lowered the high end of its earnings guidance. Fellow Dow components Caterpillar and Travelers also slumped after reporting results. And Alphabet’s shares fell 4.2% after the Google parent posted a surge in profits but a rise in expenses.

Elsewhere, Verizon Communications added 2.2% after posting stronger-than-expected revenue growth.

As earnings season presses on, analysts said it could take more from companies to wow investors.

“Objectively, it’s a pretty good set of [overall earnings] numbers we’re getting, but the market is not really taking off and running with these things,” said Larry Hatheway, chief economist and head of investment solutions at GAM. “[Climbing] bond yields could be holding the market back from where it would otherwise be,” he added.

Kate Warne, principal investment strategist at Edward Jones, said for stocks to move off earnings, companies have to really beat the estimates. Investors are also focused on other risk areas, such as inflation concerns and higher interest rates.

“We could see more response as we get into the heart of earnings season,” she said.

The U.S. government bond market remained under pressure as the 10-year Treasury yield hit 3% shortly after the U.S. stock market opened. Yields on 10-year Treasurys were last up slightly at 2.979% from 2.973% Monday afternoon. Yields rise as bond prices fall.

Analysts have attributed the recent rise in yields in part to a climb in oil prices, which has helped push up inflation expectations. U.S. crude oil fell 0.2% to $68.49 a barrel Tuesday as investors weighed concerns that the U.S. could withdraw from the Iranian nuclear deal—something they say could tighten global supplies.

“Earnings have been much better than people have expected, but the reason [the stock market] hasn’t done better is because people are concerned about higher rates and high levels of input costs,” said Patrick Spencer, vice chairman of equities at Baird. “On conference calls, companies are talking about transport costs and commodity costs—they’re a headwind,” he said.

Elsewhere, the Stoxx Europe 600 slipped less than 0.1%, while stocks in Asia mostly closed higher.

Chinese stocks rebounded after weeks of underperformance, getting a lift from government pronouncements of deeper economic and market reforms.

The Shanghai Composite Index rose 2%, its biggest gain since February. The rebound carried over to Hong Kong, where the Hang Seng Index rose 1.3%.

—Ese Erheriene contributed to this article.


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