Stock Market is Ending the Week on a Sour Note
NEW YORK (AP) - After months of worrying about Europe, now investors are getting concerned about Asia too.
U.S. stocks opened lower on Wall Street Friday morning following unsettling reports out of China and elsewhere. China’s export growth plunged, Singapore’s economy shrank and South Korea’s central bank issued pessimistic predictions.
How China and other Asian countries fare is hugely important to both the U.S. and Europe. For one thing, China, managed to keep growing even throughout the world recession and its aftermath.
How China fares is also a sign of how the rest of the world is faring: Its exports dropped largely because of sluggish demand from its biggest trading partner, Europe, which is still grappling with a burdensome debt crisis.
The Dow Jones industrial average was down 28 at 13,137 after the first hour of trading. The Standard & Poor’s 500 is down two to 1,400. The Nasdaq composite index is down six to 3,012.
European markets were mostly lower. Benchmark indexes were down 0.9 percent in Italy and France and 0.6 percent in Germany. Spain’s long-term borrowing cost, as measured by the yield on the benchmark 10-year Spanish government bond, edged higher, to 6.85 percent from 6.80 percent.
The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 1.65 percent from 1.70 percent late Thursday as investors shifted money into low-risk investments.
Manchester United, the British soccer club, went public at $14 per share. That was lower than the $16 to $20 that had widely been anticipated, but apparently all that the market could handle: The stock rose four cents in early trading. Manchester United, though widely popular as a soccer team, is also ridden in debt and, at 134 years old, not exactly a high-growth company.
Yahoo fell 75 cents to $15.26. Investors had been expecting Yahoo to distribute most of the proceeds from an upcoming sale back to shareholders, but a regulatory filing late Thursday revealed that new CEO Marissa Mayer could scrap that plan. Mayer, a former Google executive, is charged with turning Yahoo around. Yahoo is selling half its stake in a thriving Chinese Internet company, Alibaba Group.
It’s been a week without much direction for the stock market. Stocks rose incrementally on Monday and Tuesday, then end mixed Wednesday and Thursday. The moves have all been small, and investors don’t seem to have too much conviction either way. There’s been a lack of major economic developments or European summits to guide them. It’s expected that the lull could last through most of August, when many traders are on vacation.
China, the world’s second-biggest economy, said Friday that its export growth slumped to 1 percent in July from more than 11 percent in the previous month, a sign of anemic demand in other countries. Growth in imports fell to about 5 percent from 6 percent, a sign of lower demand within China.
Imports could fall more if exports continue to do the same. Sinking demand for China’s products has hammered manufacturers that employ millions of workers to supply the world with low-cost shoes, toys, furniture and consumer electronics. Thousands of smaller companies have been forced into bankruptcy.
Singapore reported that its economy shrank in the second quarter, also hurt by lower demand for its goods. And South Korea warned that the European debt crisis would hurt its own economy for a sustained period.
China’s performance raises questions about whether its government will step in more decisively to try to fix things, but it’s also hard to predict if those efforts would help. The government has already cut interest rates twice since June to try to spur lending and borrowing, and it is spending more on public works like infrastructure.
Europe itself, the cause of so much consternation, was fairly quiet. Leaders of the 17 countries that use the euro are fighting over how best to resolve the debt crisis. There are sharp differences between weaker countries like Greece, which have needed financial bailouts, and the stronger countries like Germany, which often foot the bill for those bailouts.
On Friday, an influential German business group warned against a bond-buying plan that European leaders have proposed. That would presumably help lower the borrowing costs of weak countries like Spain and Italy, but the German business group said it would "pose a massive threat to the functioning of the monetary union."
Among other stocks making big moves, J.C. Penney jumped 5 percent, rising $1.02 to $23.12, despite reporting a bigger than expected loss and plummeting sales. Its new CEO, former Apple executive Ron Johnson, is charged with turning around the struggling retailer.