Sun, Aug 11, 2013 - Page 15 News List

US stocks slide on light trade and Fed angst


US stocks retreated from record peaks and finished lower after a sluggish week that was light on news and trading volume.

After the barrage of earnings and economic reports the previous week, this week’s comparatively empty economic calendar heightened attention on the few major datapoints that surfaced. The US trade deficit narrowed considerably in June, implying that economic growth was better than expected. Activity in the services sector picked up, and solid trade data from China and Germany suggested two of the world’s biggest exporters are also doing better.

Despite these promising bits of news, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed the week 232.85 points, or 1.49 percent, lower at 15,425.51, while the broad-based S&P 500 fell 18.25 points, or 1.07 percent, to 1,691.42. Both the Dow and S&P 500 finished at record highs the previous week.

The tech-rich NADAQ Composite Index retreated 29.48 points, or 0.8 percent, to 3,660.11.

Analysts described the drop as unsurprising given the market’s impressive rise this year. The S&P 500 has risen about 19 percent this year. Some see profit-taking at work.

Rockwell Global Capital chief market economist Peter Cardillo described the week’s losses as “a normal pullback on light volume, and light volume tends to exaggerate movements.”

“It was a bit of a rough week... but not really all that negative,” Cardillo said. “It certainly doesn’t indicate that we’re about to tumble.”

“It’s certainly disturbing to see the markets drop,” said Jack Ablin, executive vice president and chief investment officer at BMO Private Bank. “But at the same time, there’s such light volume that it’s really hard to know what the direction of the market is.”

Analysts cited comments from several US Federal Reserve officials that pointed toward a possible move to scale back the central bank’s aggressive bond-buying program next month. These included remarks from Chicago Fed President Charles Evans, who is regarded as a dove on monetary policy.

The Fed comments “spooked the market,” said William Lynch, director of investment at Hinsdale Associates, adding that the market had been expecting the Fed to taper the program at the end of the year.

The threat of a taper nex tmonth is “probably the biggest thing overhanging the market right now,” Ablin said.

Nine of 10 sectors in the S&P 500 saw declines last week. The exception was materials, which includes companies like miner Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold and chemical titan Dow Chemical that benefit from a more bullish outlook on China. One of the biggest sectoral losers for the week was financials, following news that indicated large banks still face considerable regulatory costs from the housing bust.

The US Department of Justice on Tuesday filed suit against Bank of America alleging it defrauded investors in the sale of mortgage-backed securities.

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