Banking stocks had a down day Wednesday as disappointing data on new-home sales signaled a rocky recovery in the housing industry.
The KBW Bank Index fell 1.15%, to 42.86.
The Commerce Department said November new-home sales fell 11% from a month earlier, to a seasonally adjusted rate of 355,000. A day earlier, the markets had rallied on news that sales of existing homes rose in November as buyers took advantage of tax credits for first-time homebuyers.
The numbers were troubling because they indicated how reliant the housing industry is on government support. It appears that existing-home buyers rushed to close deals in November, when the government initially said the tax credit would expire. Wednesday's report reflected sales agreements that were signed in November, signaling that buyers had begun taking their time once the tax subsidy was extended until April.
The housing numbers overshadowed other data. The Commerce Department said consumer purchases rose 0.05% and incomes climbed 0.4% in November.
Meanwhile, a closely watched index of U.S. stock options fell below 20 for the first time since August 2008, signaling that investor anxiety is easing. The Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index fell 4.6%, to 19.54. It had peaked at 80.86 in November 2008.
Still, banking stocks had a rough day.
JPMorgan Chase & Co. fell 0.91%; Bank of America Corp., 0.91%; Wells Fargo & Co., 1.14%, and Citigroup Inc. a nickel a share, to $3.29.
Among regional banking companies, U.S. Bancorp closed off 1.97%; PNC Financial Services Group Inc., 1.14%; SunTrust Banks Inc., 2.73%; BB&T Corp., 0.47%, and Fifth Third Bancorp, 2.65%.