Before the Bell: Apparel Retailers, Health Care Take a Hit and Tech Gets a Boost

Premarket action on Tuesday had the three major U.S. indexes trading lower. The Dow Jones industrials were down 0.39%, the S&P 500 down 0.31% and the Nasdaq 0.35% lower.

Six of 11 market sectors closed lower Monday, with health care (−1.66%) and consumer staples (−1.03%) falling the most. Technology (1.09%) and utilities (0.64%) posted the day’s best gains. The Dow closed down 0.34%, the S&P 500 down 0.08% and the Nasdaq up 0.63% on Monday.

Trading volume was higher Monday. New York Stock Exchange winners led losers by 1,907 to 1,194, while Nasdaq advancers led decliners by about 3 to 2. Among S&P 500 stocks, Tesla Inc. (NASDAQ: TSLA) added 5.9%, adding to the bounce the shares received on Friday. On the other side of the earnings coin, Baxter International Inc. (NYSE: BAX) dropped by about 7.7%, compounding its drop of 10% on Friday after announcing the spin-off of its renal care business.

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell is giving a speech on central bank independence in Stockholm before markets open. As always, Powell’s comments will be scrutinized for clues to what the FOMC may do with interest rates at its next meeting. The Fed’s website has a link to a live broadcast of Powell’s speech.

The National Federation of Independent Business released its Optimism Index for December this morning. The index fell from a reading of 91.9 in November to 89.8, the 12th straight month of declining optimism.

Retail apparel stocks took a beating on Monday following warnings on quarterly results from Lululemon Athletica Inc. (NASDAQ: LULU). The apparel retailer expects sales to be a bit higher than originally forecast, but margins are set to slide and cut three cents per share from the high end of the company’s estimated earnings per share (EPS) for the quarter. Lululemon continues to have inventory problems. Chico’s FAS Inc. (NYSE: CHS) dropped more than 8%, and Lulu’s Fashion Lounge Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ: LVLU) and Designer Brands Inc. (NYSE: DBI) both tumbled by more than 5%.

Chipmaker Broadcom Inc. (NASDAQ: AVGO) dropped nearly 2% Monday on a report that Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) will design and produce its own Wi-Fi and Bluetooth chip, a chip it currently sources from Broadcom. The switch is due in 2025, about the same time that Apple is expected to drop its dependence on Qualcomm Inc. (NASDAQ: QCOM) as the supplier of cellular modem chips. Qualcomm stock dropped by about 0.6% Monday. Apple has been working on a modem chip for about four years while the effort to replace the Broadcom chip did not begin until later.

Other chipmakers had a better day on Monday, and along with electric vehicle makers Tesla and Lucid Group Inc. (NASDAQ: LCID), which added 6.6%, pushed the tech sector higher. Nvidia Corp. (NASDAQ: NVDA) jumped about 5.2% and Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (NASDAQ: AMD) added 5.1%. While these chipmakers’ stocks are not exactly cheap, they are cheaper than they were a year ago. And there has been some good news for the industry: China may back off from its plan to pour almost $150 billion into subsidies for its own chipmakers.

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