Benchmark U.S. crude lost 97 cents, or 2.2 percent, to settle at $43.23 per barrel, and Brent crude, the international standard, fell 89 cents to $46.02 per barrel.
The price of oil has been sloshing between $40 and $55 per barrel for much of the last year, down from a peak of more than $110 in the summer of 2013. Drillers have gotten much better at pulling oil from the ground, which has helped supplies to balloon and correspondingly weighed on prices. Many oil-producing countries have banded together to cut production in hopes of limiting supplies, but analysts are skeptical about how much they can influence prices.
One of the main reasons for the stock market’s climbing to record after record this year has been the resurgence in profit growth for big companies, and the energy sector is expected to play a leading role in that. Analysts forecast energy companies in the S&P 500 will report better than 300 percent growth in their earnings per share this year. But if the price of oil keeps dropping, that’s at risk.
John Manley, chief equity strategist at Wells Fargo Funds Management, is still optimistic that expectations for earnings across the market can keep rising. Lower oil prices would undercut profits for energy stocks, but they should also help other industries that will be paying lower fuel bills. And as long as profits continue to rise, Manley says stocks can too.
“Earnings are starting to re-accelerate,” he said. “It may stop tomorrow, and if it does, well, I’ll change my mind tomorrow. But right now, earnings are growing.”
Tuesday’s slump for oil led shares of Transocean to drop 36 cents, or 4.2 percent, to $8.20 and Marathon Oil to lose 43 cents, or 3.4 percent, to $12.06.
The worst-performing stock in the S&P 500 was Chipotle Mexican Grill, which lost $33.31, or 7.3 percent, to $425.60 after analysts cut their profit estimates for the restaurant chain. Chipotle said marketing costs will eat up a slightly bigger percentage of revenue this quarter than in the first three months of the year.
On the opposite end was homebuilder Lennar, which rose $1.13, or 2.1 percent, to $53.87 after reporting stronger revenue and earnings for the latest quarter than analysts expected.
Parexel International, a biopharmaceutical services provider, jumped $3.12, or 3.7 percent, to $87.04 after it said it will go private following a buyout by Pamplona Capital Management.
In the Treasury market, bond prices rose, which caused yields to fall. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note sank to 2.15 percent from 2.19 percent late Monday. The two-year yield dropped to 1.34 percent from 1.36 percent, and the 30-year yield fell to 2.73 percent from 2.79 percent.
The British pound fell to $1.2629 from $1.2729 after the Bank of England cooled market expectations that it may soon raise interest rates.
The euro dipped to $1.1128 from $1.1147, and the dollar slipped to 111.41 Japanese yen from 111.54 yen.
In the commodities markets, gold dipped $3.20 to settle at $1,243.50 per ounce, silver lost 9 cents to $16.42 per ounce and copper dropped 4 cents to $2.55 per pound.
Natural gas rose a penny to $2.91 per 1,000 cubic feet, heating oil fell 2 cents to $1.39 per gallon and wholesale gasoline lost 3 cents to $1.42 per gallon.
In overseas markets, the French CAC 40 slipped 0.3 percent, the German DAX lost 0.6 percent and the FTSE 100 fell 0.7 percent.
The Japanese Nikkei 225 rose 0.8 percent, the Hang Seng in Hong Kong fell 0.3 percent and South Korea’s Kospi dipped 0.1 percent.
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