News Column

U.S. Markets Flat Amid Global Morass

Aug. 19, 2011

U.S. stocks were flat Friday following sharp declines in Asian and European markets.

Surveying the damage from Thursday's relapse, however, one marketing executive described the global investment scene as a "war zone."

In early afternoon trading on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average of blue-chip stock lost 27.85 points, 0.25 percent, to 10,962.73. The Standard & Poor's 500 index shed 1.07 or 0.09 percent, to 1,139.58. The Nasdaq composite index added 0.32 or 0.01 percent, to 2,380.75.

The benchmark 10-year treasury note lost 12/32 to yield 2.108 percent.

After four trading sessions of relative calm, the dismal market performance across the globe Thursday was apparently enough to scare investors off, with fears of double-dip recession, the European debt crisis, yen appreciation, a manufacturing decline in key U.S. regions and higher U.S. inflation, just to name a few of the concerns.

As has been the case for much of the past two weeks, starting with Standard and Poor's downgrade of the U.S. credit rating to AA+ from AAA, there was no market-moving good news to cheer investors. Morgan Stanley's lower global growth forecast took away what little enthusiasm there was.

At Bank of America, an announced layoff of 3,500 workers with likely thousands more to follow confirmed the direction of the economy, marred by high unemployment in the United States and Europe.

In Europe, stock prices began the day sharply down, adding to their previous day's huge losses.

Before a late recovery, London's FTSE 100 and Germany's Dax were both down more than 3 percent and France's Cac fared a little better, down only 1.92 percent.

The FTSE 100 closed down 1.01 percent. Germany's index closed at 2.19 percent in the red.

Tokyo's Nikkei-225 closed out Friday down 225 points, or 2.51 percent, to 8,719 points.

The euro gained strength, climbing to $1.4406 from Thursday's $1.4333. The Japanese yen, however, remained stubbornly high against the U.S. dollar, trading below at 76.41 yen from Thursday's 76.58 yen.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index plunged 616 points, or 3.08 percent, to end at 19,400 points.

In China, where U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and his entourage met with business and political leaders, the Shanghai Composite index shed 25 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,534 points.

South Korea's Kospi was hit hard, losing 116 points, or 6.22 percent, to end at 1,744 points.

Australia's All Ordinaries couldn't shake of its earlier losses, conceding 148 points in the end, down 3.41 percent, to 4,172 points.

In India, the 30-stock Sensex, already down big the previous day, was pulverized to give up another 328 points, or 1.99 percent, to 16,141 points. The other India bourse, Nifty, also closed with a sharp loss.

Taiwan, Indonesia and Singapore also took in big losses.

"We had a couple days to stabilize and breathe but you forget that it's a war zone out there and there's just too much uncertainty about the economy," Frank Davis, director of sales and trading at LEK Securities, told CNN.

"They are now focusing on next week's data, such as U.S. gross domestic product," another expert told the BBC.

Gold prices have already set records, hitting nearly $1,834 an ounce.

In Europe, investors were not encouraged by proposals announced after a meeting between French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, designed to encourage fiscal discipline and promote competitiveness in the embattled eurozone.

"Bear markets tend to happen when sentiments are low and that comes from weakened demand and bad news flow," Chou Chong of Aberdeen Asset Management told the BBC.

Source: Copyright United Press International 2011

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