Analysis: Bad stuff the stock market worried about is starting to happen

All of a sudden, the fundamentals aren’t looking as strong.

First it was Apple’s $5 billion revenue miss, hints of which lopped 30 percent from its stock over three months. Now it’s a closely watched gauge of U.S. factory activity, which dropped to a two-year low and missed every estimate in a Bloomberg survey.

What’s going on? Over and over in the fourth quarter, as the S&P 500 plunged 19.8 percent to the brink of a bear market, investors heard the same refrain: don’t panic, the economy, and corporate earnings, look strong.

In the last 24 hours, confidence in those assurances has taken a hit. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell more than 600 points, or 2.6 percent, Thursday morning, while losses in the Nasdaq 100 spiraled toward 3 percent.

“The market is the wisdom of all investors — it was discounting this type of news-flow with the sharp and violent sell-off we got in December,” Alec Young, managing director of global markets research at FTSE Russell, said in a phone interview. “When it makes a big move, up or down, it’s telling you positive or negative things about future developments. The extreme move down was telling you we’d get this type of news-flow.”

All the bad news has put an abrupt halt to what had been the equity market’s best five-day run since 2011, a surge in the S&P 500 that reached 7.2 percent at yesterday’s high point. It’s reprising anxiety that left stocks within points of a bear market on Christmas Eve.

While plenty of real-time irritants existed to explain the fourth-quarter tumble — tariff wars, the Federal Reserve, stretched valuations — many bulls expressed bewilderment about the velocity of the plunge given estimates for growth. The U.S. economy is forecast to expand by 2.6 percent in

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