- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 16, 2009

NEW YORK | Bad economic news and doubts about the market’s ability to rally dealt stocks a setback Monday.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 187 points, its biggest drop since April 20. All the major market indexes fell more than 2 percent.

Trading volume was light, suggesting an absence of buyers rather than a flood of sellers rushing to dump stocks, but the pullback nonetheless was another sign that the market’s spring rally has stalled.

The slide began in Asia and Europe and spread to the United States as a strong dollar pushed commodities prices sharply lower. Stocks of energy and materials producers have been lifting the market in the past month, so the drop in prices left stocks without an important leg of support.

Meanwhile, new worries about the economy emerged after an index of manufacturing in New York indicated that demand weakened in June. The weaker report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York ran counter to the gradual improvement traders have grown accustomed to with other economic readings.

Analysts said stocks are also losing ground because investors are questioning what it will take to move the market higher. Ahead of Monday’s slide, the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index had jumped 39.9 percent since skidding to a 12-year low March 9. Investors have been betting on an economic recovery, but questions about how long that might take are poking holes in the rally.

Harry Rady, chief executive of Rady Asset Management, said stocks have risen too fast, given how troubled the economy remains. “The market just seems to keep driving the car into the wall and then wonders why it can’t keep driving,” he said.

The Dow fell 187.13, or 2.1 percent, to 8,612.13, and returned to a loss for the year. The broader S&P; fell 22.49, or 2.4 percent, to 923.72, and the Nasdaq Composite Index fell 42.42, or 2.3 percent, to 1,816.38. Both indexes still are showing a gain for 2009.

Overseas trading was influenced by the dollar, which rose against most other major currencies following weekend comments from Russia’s finance minister, Alexei Kudrin, that the greenback likely would remain the world’s reserve currency.

Investors have been worried in recent weeks that foreign governments would seek to spread their reserve cash holdings beyond the dollar. That would cut into demand for the currency.

Commodities, including oil, tend to be a hedge against a weak dollar. So, when the greenback is stronger, investors feel less need to protect themselves against it, and they start selling commodities. That in turn tends to pull down the stocks of basic materials producers who profit from higher prices.

Commodities producers fell Monday. Aluminum-maker Alcoa Inc. and Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. slid. Alcoa fell 80 cents, or 6.7 percent, to $11.19, while Freeport-McMoRan fell $3.04, or 5.2 percent, to $55.48.

Overseas, Japan’s Nikkei average lost 1 percent, while Britain’s FTSE 100 fell 2.6 percent, Germany’s DAX fell 3.5 percent and France’s CAC-40 lost 3.2 percent.

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