US stocks slip lower; Tesla down on increased Chinese competition

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US stocks slip lower; Tesla down on increased Chinese competition -- U.S. stocks retreated Tuesday, handing back some of the previous year's hefty gains as investors awaited the release of key economic data to confirm the expected trend of lower interest rates this year.

By 09:55 ET (14:55 GMT), the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 23 points, or 0.1%, S&P 500 traded 28 points, or 0.6%, lower and NASDAQ Composite dropped 205 points, or 1.4%.

The three main indices recorded a stellar 2023, benefiting from raised expectations that the Federal Reserve will start cutting interest rates in the first quarter, likely resulting in an economic soft landing.

The benchmark S&P 500 surged by just over 24% annually, closing out the year with a streak of nine consecutive winning weeks -- its best since 2004. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite soared by 43%, driven in part by strength in mega-cap stocks and emerging enthusiasm over the possible applications of artificial intelligence.

The 30-stock Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped by just short of 14%, boosted by seven record closing levels as the year drew to a close.

Nonfarm payrolls loom large

These expectations that 2024 could mark the start of a global easing cycle remains the dominant market driver, and investors will have a barrage of key economic readings to contend with ahead of the Fed's March meeting.

This started with disappointing U.S. manufacturing PMI , which confirmed that this important sector remained in contraction territory in December, ahead of the release of the minutes from the December Fed meeting on Thursday. 

But most eyes will be on Friday’s nonfarm payrolls data for December. This is expected to show that the number of jobs created during the last month of 2023 fell to 163,000, from just under 200,000 the previous month. 

Tesla faces competition from BYD 

In the corporate sector, Tesla Inc (NASDAQ: TSLA ) stock fell 1% despite the world's most valuable automaker delivering a record number of vehicles in the fourth quarter and hit its 2023 target of 1.8 million, helped by increasing discounts on key models.  

Tsla is facing increasing competition in China, the largest auto market in the world, after BYD (SZ: 002594 ) said it produced a record 526,000 battery-powered cars in the fourth quarter, and over 3 million new EVs and hybrids in 2023, beating Tesla for the second straight year. 

Rivian Automotive (NASDAQ: RIVN ) stock slumped over 8% after the EV maker missed market estimates for fourth-quarter deliveries as tough competition and high interest rates weighed on demand for its electric vehicles.

Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL ) sock fell over 3% after Barclays (LON: BARC ) downgraded its stance on the tech giant to 'underweight' from 'equal weight', expressing concerns about a prolonged period of weak results and the potential for multiple expansion not being sustainable.

Crude stabilizes after more Red Sea attacks

Oil prices stabilizing after early gains Tuesday, after traders digest the potential for supply disruptions in the Middle East after more violence in the Red Sea, a vital trade route between Europe and Asia.

By 09:55 ET, the U.S. crude futures traded 0.1% lower at $71.55 a barrel, while the Brent contract climbed 0.2% to $77.19 a barrel.

Reports over the New Year weekend showed that U.S. strikes had killed about 10 Houthi fighters and sank three boats of the Yemeni group, after a series of strikes by the Houthis on several military and commercial vessels in the region. 

Both benchmark contracts had shed over 10% each in 2023, coming under pressure from persistent concerns over sluggish demand and higher-than-expected supply conditions.  

Additionally, gold futures rose 0.4% to $2,079.15/oz, while EUR/USD traded 0.7% lower at 1.0966.

(Oliver Gray and Scott Kanowsky contributed to this item.)

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