Stocks drop as financial sector slides more than 1 percent

Stocks were lower Monday on the first trading day of the month and quarter as traders parsed key economic data.

The Dow fell 75 points, with Goldman Sachs contributing the most losses. The S&P 500 dropped 0.4 percent, with financials dropping more than 1 percent to lead decliners. The Nasdaq hit a new all-time intraday before also sliding 0.4 percent.

The ISM manufacturing index read for March hit 57.2, topping estimates but slipping from the previous month’s level. Construction spending rose 0.8 percent in February to its highest level in nearly 11 years. Monthly auto sales numbers will also be released throughout the day.

“A lot of focus will be towards some key economic numbers that can very much set the tone for the trading action of this week,” said Naeem Aslam, chief market strategist at Think Markets.

Other data set for release this week include minutes from the Federal Reserve’s previous meeting and March’s jobs report.

Wall Street also prepared itself for a meeting between President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday and Friday. The two leaders are expected to discuss trade and North Korea, among other subjects.

Lukman Otunuga, research analyst at FXTM, said the two-day meeting “may be classified as an event risk.”

“Any complications or tension in the meeting could spark risk aversion consequently pressuring stock markets while boosting attraction for safe-haven assets,” he said.

Stocks closed off a strong first quarter on Friday, with the major indexes posting gains of at least 4.56 percent. That said, the rally stalled last month amid uncertainty about when the Trump administration’s pro-growth policies grew.

“The market has been locked into this trading range,” said Bruce Bittles, chief investment strategist at Baird. “There’s just a loss in upside momentum and I think that’s going to continue into the earnings season.”

U.S. Treasurys held mixed on Monday, with the two-year note yield around 1.26 percent and the 10-year yield near 2.38 percent.

The dollar rose 0.2 percent against a basket of currencies, with the euro near 1.066 and the yen around 111.4.

Overseas, European equities traded slightly higher, with the Stoxx 600 index rising 0.06 percent. In Asia, stocks rose broadly, as the Nikkei 225, Shanghai composite, Hang Seng index and Kospi all closed higher.

Fred Imbert

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