- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 30, 2009

NEW YORK | Stocks had their fourth straight day of incremental moves as commodity prices slid and orders for big-ticket manufactured goods fell, injecting more economic uncertainty into the market.

Investors are uneasy, but aren’t giving up on stocks. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost only 26 points Wednesday, and major indexes are still up about 11 percent since mid-July. Analysts say the market’s buoyancy after such a big gain is a welcome sign of stability, but also that more good news is needed for stocks to resume their climb.

For now, though, investors are finding more reasons for concern. The price of oil and raw materials fell after stocks tumbled in China on fears that the growth in that country’s economy would slow. That could hurt demand for a range of commodities. A jump in U.S. crude-oil inventories further weighed on the price of oil.

The Commerce Department said orders to U.S. factories for manufactured goods - those expected to last at least three years - fell an unexpectedly steep 2.5 percent in June. The slide reflected troubles in the auto industry and a drop in demand for commercial aircraft. It was the largest decrease in five months, and was worse than the 0.6 percent decrease analysts were expecting.

The Dow fell 26, or 0.3 percent, to 9,070.72. The broader Standard & Poor’s 500 Index fell 4.47, or 0.5 percent, to 975.15, while the Nasdaq Composite Index slid 7.75, or 0.4 percent, to 1,967.76.

Energy and materials stocks fell after a drop in stocks in China. The main Shanghai index tumbled 5 percent on fears that China would try to keep its economy from heating up too quickly. A slowdown in China’s economy would erode demand for a range of raw materials, including oil and metals.

Investors were also unnerved after U.S. crude inventories rose more than expected last week. The rise prompted worries that weakness in the economy was curbing demand for energy.

Occidental Petroleum Corp. fell $2.21, or 3.1 percent, to $69.48, while Schlumberger Ltd. fell $2.11, or 3.9 percent, to $52.49.

Light, sweet crude slid $3.88 to settle at $63.35 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Bond prices were mixed after a disappointing auction of $39 billion in five-year notes. That raised fears that Washington will have to offer investors higher returns on debt, which can drive up borrowing costs on consumer loans such as mortgages. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury, which moves opposite its price, fell to 3.67 percent from 3.69 percent late Tuesday.

The Russell 2000 Index of smaller companies fell 3.57, or 0.7 percent, to 548.38.

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