Wall Street began the week on the same note it ended the previous one as Caterpillar became the latest company to throw cold water on the outlook for corporate profits.
Caterpillar warned worldwide growth was easing more than anticipated, which will contain earnings this year and next. Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold today reported an unexpected sharp drop in profit - though it expects profit and production to rebound when it taps into higher-grade ore at a key mine in Indonesia during 2013.
"These companies are running lean and mean, very productive and very efficient, but you're not getting that revenue growth" amid the euro zone's sovereign debt crisis and China's slow growth, Alan Lancz, president of Alan B Lancz & Associates in Toledo, Ohio, told Reuters.
In afternoon trading in New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 0.72 per cent, the Standard & Poor's 500 Index slid 0.56 per cent, and the Nasdaq Composite Index fell 0.30 per cent.
Still, it wasn't all bad news. Shares of Peabody Energy soared, last up 8.7 per cent, after surpassing analysts' forecasts.
Indeed, US stocks are beating every major asset class for the first time in 17 years; the S&P 500 has rallied 14 per cent in 2012, beating US Treasuries, corporate bonds, commodities, the greenback and equities in Asia and Europe, data compiled by Bloomberg show.
And some are very optimistic about the road ahead.
"We see good earnings growth and improving economic outlook, we see good equity valuations and easy monetary policy, we see sceptical investors and low positioning in equity assets," Max King, a multi-asset strategist at Investec Asset Management in London, told Bloomberg. "This is a major green light for equities and the fact that people don't see it, is great."
Meanwhile, in Europe, the Stoxx 600 Index ended the session with a 0.4 per cent decline from the previous close, as investors remain concerned about the progress on financial assistance for Spain and Greece, and the ability of euro zone leaders to finally turn the region's sovereign debt crisis around.
Benchmark equity indexes also finished lower in Germany, France and the UK.
The weekend electoral win for Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is being seen as taking pressure of him asking for an international bailout. The result was that the yield on Spain's 10-year bond edged higher.
Politics also are rising in focus in the US ahead of today's final debate between President Barack Obama and his Republican rival Mitt Romney. The latest US daily poll shows the two are in a dead heat ahead of the November 6 vote.