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U.S. stocks lower on consumer spending worries
Question of the Day
Stocks fell on Friday after news that U.S. consumers spent more last month only because higher gas prices forced them to.
Even with the declines on the last trading day of the quarter, stocks were set to post small gains for the three-month period.
In late morning trading, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 89 points at 13,397. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index was down 10 points at 1,438. The Nasdaq composite index fell 21 points to 3,116.
Americans spent more in August even though their income barely grew, the Commerce Department said. But the spending increase was driven by higher gasoline prices.
Investors were also worried about Spain’s economy. The Spanish government announced big spending cuts on Thursday aimed at convincing potential bailout creditors and investors that it has a rock-solid plan to heal its public finances. But the positive momentum generated by that budget ground to a halt, as investors awaited more news, including stress test results for 14 banks due after European markets close.
Moody’s, the credit rating agency, is also expected to weigh in on Spain’s creditworthiness. There are concerns the government’s rating will be cut to “junk” status.
Stocks finished higher in Asia on continued speculation that China’s central bank will act soon to help the world’s No. 2 economy. But the worries about Spain pushed stocks lower in Europe.
In the U.S., stocks fell in all 10 industry groups in the S&P 500. Energy stocks had the biggest declines, down 1 percent.
Even with Friday’s declines, the Dow was up 4 percent for the quarter, and the S&P 500 was up 5.5 percent.
“It’s been a good quarter, but at least for the day we seem to be limping across the finish line,” said Lawrence Creatura, portfolio manager at Federated Investors.
Among U.S. stocks with noteworthy moves:
• Bank of America Corp. fell 14 cents, or 1.6 percent, to $8.83 after saying it has agreed to pay $2.43 billion to settle a class-action lawsuit related to its acquisition of Merrill Lynch.
• Blackberry maker Research in Motion Ltd. jumped 60 cents, or 8.4 percent, to $7.74 after reporting a smaller-than-expected quarterly loss on Thursday night.
• Shoemaker Nike fell $1.10, or 1.1 percent, to $94.90 after saying its first-quarter net income fell 12 percent because higher sales were offset by increased ad spending. The results were better than Wall Street had expected, but investors seemed more worried about the trail ahead for Nike rather than its performance in the last quarter.
• McDonald’s Corp. fell $2.02, or 2.2 percent, to $91.25 after a Janney Capital Markets cut its rating and price target, saying difficult year-ago comparisons may pressure sales at stores open at least 13 months, which is a key revenue metric for retailers.
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