What's moving markets today: March 7, 2019

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4:44 p.m. ET, March 7, 2019

Americans’ net worth just took the biggest hit since the Great Recession

Stock market volatility hit Americans' net worth at the end of 2018, with household net worth falling $3.7 trillion, or 3.5%, in the fourth quarter, according to Federal Reserve data.

It was the worst decline on record and the worst percentage decline since the Great Recession.

During the market downturn that began in October of last year, Americans lost $4.6 trillion in equities before stocks stabilized in December. This is the first time net worth has fallen since the third quarter of 2015, when it slid 1%.

The last time Americans’ net worth saw a greater drop was the fourth quarter of 2008 when they lost 6% or $3.8 trillion of wealth.

The decline does not reflect the average household's balance sheet, since stock ownership is concentrated among the wealthy. Only 18.7% of Americans own stock directly, while about half are invested in the market through through employer-sponsored retirement accounts, according to Pew.

Americans' net worth should also recover in the first quarter of 2019, if the current stock market rally continues.

12:32 p.m. ET, March 7, 2019

Scenes from a GM plant closing

Workers gathered today to mourn and comfort each other as the last Chevy Cruze rolled off the production line at the GM (GM) plant in Lordstown, Ohio.

Jeff Swensen/Getty Images
Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

Many of the people gathered today are losing jobs that they once thought would last a lifetime. They are also mourning the loss of a specific type of American job that is quickly vanishing: Work that provides stable wages and job security to people without a college degree.

Full-time production workers at the Lordstown plant made between $61,000 and $81,000 a year, while the average salary of workers in the area is only $38,000.

Jeff Swensen/Getty Images
Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

The shuttering of the Lordstown plant is emblematic of GM’s general shift away from human labor and towards automation, as well as a move away from sedans like the Cruze in favor of large trucks. In its heyday, GM employed 618,000 employees; that number has since dwindled to around 103,000.

Jeff Swensen/Getty Images
Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

What's next for Lordstown? The area's remaining small manufacturers say the labor jobs here will be replaced by robots, 3D printers, and a small group of highly-skilled engineers that manage the factory floors.

12:31 p.m. ET, March 7, 2019

Yikes! Stocks are sinking

Wall Street is in negative territory. Here's where they stand:

  • The Dow is down 200 points, or 0.80%
  • Nasdaq slid 40 points, or 0.60%
  • S&P 500 is off 18 points, or 0.64%

Retail stocks are getting hammered today:

  • Barnes & Noble (BKS) is down 16% after it said it expects its profit to shrink this year.
  • Burlington Stores (BURL) is down 13% after reporting mixed earnings.
  • Hugo Boss (BOSSY) fell 8% after it indicated that operating profit will increase faster than sales.
  • Kroger (KR) shares are still performing badly — down 10% — after a brutal earnings report.
11:01 a.m. ET, March 7, 2019

Look at how badly Kroger's stock is doing today

Kroger (KR) shares are down 12% after a brutal earnings report that missed analysts' expectations.

  • The stock is now down 9% for the year.
10:50 a.m. ET, March 7, 2019

Canopy Growth co-CEO: Pot prohibition just ended

Canopy Growth chairman and co-CEO Bruce Linton is feeling good about Martha Stewart recently joining the cannabis company as an adviser.

"Martha. You don't even need a last name," he told Julia Chatterley on CNN's "First Move" show Thursday and added that signing Stewart was all about attaching "a great reputation to great products."

Linton also said he was not worried about the fact that Canopy Growth is not yet profitable. The industry is still in its early stages, he said.

Canada just legalized recreational cannabis in October, and more and more US states are doing the same for recreational and medicinal marijuana.

"We need to be disciplined, but prohibition just ended," Linton said about Canada. He added that Canopy wants to have a "rational" rollout of cannabis and CBD products but that it "will happen rapidly."

Canopy Growth (CGC) may be in the best position to establish itself as a leader in the still nascent industry thanks to a huge investment from Corona owner Constellation Brands (STZ), Linton told Chatterley.

"When someone says can I give you $4 billion, you say yes," he said.

9:51 a.m. ET, March 7, 2019

US stocks open lower yet again

The US stock market has fallen every day this week, and they weren't about to buck the trend Thursday.

The Dow fell 50 points at the open.

The S&P 500 and Nasdaqboth opened down 0.2%.

Kroger's (KR) stock opened 12% lower after announcing its promotions and new initiatives squeezed profit last quarter.

Barnes & Noble (BKS) shares dropped 13% on a much weaker-than-expected profit outlook -- it expects profit to shrink this year.

10:29 a.m. ET, March 7, 2019

Barnes & Noble reports best sales in years, but stock tanks on profit outlook

Amazon (AMZN) and local bookstores have squeezed Barnes & Noble (BKS) in recent years.

But the bookstore reported its best quarterly sales in years Thursday. During the holiday quarter, Barnes & Noble's sales at stores open at least a year increased 1.1% compared with a year ago.

The company got a boost from a strong lineup of new books, including Michelle Obama's memoir. It also increased spending on advertising and ran more promotions.

The profit and outlook weren't enough for Wall Street, though.

Barnes & Noble's stock tanked 12% in early trading, because the company said it expected profit to shrink in 2019.

The bookstore is in deep trouble and is looking to replace its fifth chief executive in six years. In October, Barnes & Noble's board of directors appointed a special committee to review outside offers to buy the company.

9:38 a.m. ET, March 7, 2019

Wall Street sours on Kroger

Kroger's investments to fight off Amazon are taking a toll on its profit.

The country's largest grocery chain missed Wall Street's profit expectations during its most recent quarter. That sent Kroger's stock down around 12% in early trading.

Kroger (KR) has been investing in its supply chain and technology infrastructure to reach customers' online. It's also lowered prices on food, invested in its private label brands, and bought meal kit company Home Chef. But Kroger's spending led to a tighter profit margin during the quarter compared with last year.

The company is looking for "alternative profit streams" to offset pressure on its low-margin grocery business. It believes selling more ads to brands on store shelves could be one path to grow.

Kroger has had a rocky month. Its stock fell last week after the Wall Street Journal reported that Amazon (AMZN) would open up a new line of grocery stores separate from Whole Foods.

Kroger is the latest top retailer to post earnings for the holidays. Rivals such as Walmart (WMT) and Target (TGT) have exceeded Wall Street's predictions. Costco (COST), which also leans on groceries to drive traffic to stores, reports earnings after the close on Thursday.

9:18 a.m. ET, March 7, 2019

Europe's central bank won't raise interest rates

The European Central Bank just announced it expects interest rates to remain unchanged at their record low levels rough the end of 2019.

The bank also announced a series of new, cheap loans for banks and cut this year's Eurozone growth forecast from 1.7% to 1.1%.

These new operations will help to preserve favorable bank lending conditions and the smooth transmission of monetary policy," the ECB said in a statement.
  • European markets reaction: France's CAC 40 is up 0.2%. Germany's DAX gained 0.1%. But UK's FTSE 100 remains down and is off 0.13%.
  • The euro fell to $1.13, its lowest level against the dollar since mid-November.