Disappointing reports push down US stocks

Friday, June 14th, 2013 | Finance News

NEW YORK (AP) — Disappointing reports about the U.S. economy led the stock market lower on Friday.

Confidence in the economy has fallen in June, coming in lower than economists had estimated, according to the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan survey. Another report said factories weren't as busy as expected.

The International Monetary Fund, a global lender, did little to help the mood. The IMF said Friday that U.S. government spending cuts that kicked in March 1 were "ill-designed" and slowed the economy down.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index sank six points, or 0.4 percent, to 1,629 an hour before the closing bell. Media company Gannett fell the most, dropping $1.46, or 5 percent, to $25.14.

The Dow Jones industrial slid 85 points, or 0.6 percent, to 15,090. DuPont led the Dow lower, losing $1.35, or 3 percent, to $52.54.

The indexes flitted from slight gains to losses in morning trading, a contrast to the sudden lurches in previous days. All three major indexes are on track to lose 1 percent for the week.

Trading has been volatile since late May as traders try to figure out when the Federal Reserve will dial back its aggressive support for the U.S. economy. This week was no different: The Dow slumped a total of 243 points on Tuesday and Wednesday then jumped 180 points Thursday. The blue-chip average has made moves of 100 points or more in six of the last nine trading days.

The Fed buys $85 billion in bonds every month as part of a campaign to keep interest rates extremely low. The aim is to encourage borrowing, spending and investing. Some investors worry that long-term interest rates could spike when the Fed pulls back, rattling lending markets that keep money flowing throughout the economy. Higher yields for government bonds have already started pushing mortgage rates up.

Policymakers at the Fed meet Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss the U.S. economy and the central bank's economic stimulus policies.

Scott King, senior fiduciary investment adviser at Unified Trust in Lexington, Ky., said that investors in recent weeks have been influenced more by wondering about what the Fed might do than by the underlying economy.

"You have a number of Fed governors saying the opposite to what (Fed Chairman Ben) Bernanke is saying," King said. "And that's made the markets more jittery."

King said investors were disappointed Friday by the drop in consumer confidence. He described the economy as "plodding along."

"Wage growth continues to be pretty meager, and unemployment continues to be lackluster," King said.

Banks led seven of the 10 industry groups in the S&P 500 lower. Utilities and health-care companies made slight gains. Investors tend to favor these safety plays when they want stable companies that pay higher dividends.

The S&P 500 hit a record high of 1,669 on May 21. The next day, Fed officials said they would consider pulling back on their stimulus program once the economy looks healthy enough. The S&P 500 has lost 2 percent since.

In other Friday trading, the Nasdaq composite index fell 16 points, or 0.5 percent, to 3,429.

The price of oil rose 96 cents, or 1 percent, to $97.65 a barrel, near its highest level of the year, as traders reacted to news that the U.S. would provide weapons to rebel forces in Syria.

Gold rose $9.80, or 0.7 percent, to $1,387.60 an ounce.

In the market for U.S. government bonds, the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note dipped to 2.12 percent from 2.15 percent late Thursday. The yield reached a 14-month high of 2.29 percent on Tuesday. Expectations that the Fed will pare its bond buying have helped drive the yield up from 1.63 percent on May 3, when it was at its lowest level this year.

Among stocks making big moves:

— Casey's General Stores fell $2.45, or 4 percent, to $60.84. The Iowa-based convenience store reported earnings late Thursday that fell short of what financial analysts had expected.

— Myriad Genetics sank $2.53, or 8 percent, to $29.48. The decline came a day after the Supreme Court gave the diagnostic test maker a partial victory in a patent battle.

— Restoration Hardware jumped $10.72, or 18 percent, to $69.69. The high-end home products chain raised its forecast for full-year earnings late Thursday and announced plans to start two new businesses — RH Kitchen and Tableware and RH Antiquities — next year.

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AP Business Writer Christina Rexrode contributed.

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