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Friday, 14 March 2014

US stocks fall more than 1%; weak China data cited

NEW YORK: US stocks fell sharply on Thursday as weak Chinese economic data and rising tensions in Ukraine offset solid US retail sales and labor-market data.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average tumbled 231.19 points (1.42 per cent) to 16,108.89.

The broad-based S&P 500 fell 21.86 points (1.17 per cent) to 1,846.34, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index slumped 62.91 points (1.46 per cent) to 4,260.42.

Stocks had opened higher following better-than-expected US reports on retail sales and unemployment claims, but veered into negative territory mid-morning with the sell-off accelerating in the afternoon.

Analysts pointed to a range of factors behind the big drop, such as several disappointing bits of Chinese economic data that included an 8.6 per cent growth in industrial output, the slowest pace in five years.

"Each time US investors worry about China, it results in lower stock prices," said Dan Greenhaus, chief global strategist of BTIG.

Other factors included news that Russia had escalated military training exercises near Ukraine and congressional

testimony from Federal Reserve vice chair nominee Stanley Fischer that confirmed his support of phasing out stimulus.
Greenhaus said Thursday's trade should be seen in the context of a market that has not significantly gained since the start of 2014.

"We're basically flat for the year," Greenhaus said. "So you're talking about two and a half months of sideways action."
All 30 components of the Dow finished lower.

Pfizer (-2.7 per cent) lost the most in the 30-stock Dow following an unfavorable court patent ruling Wednesday on its Celebrex drug.

General Motors fell 2.2 per cent after company data showed it knew of the ignition problem behind a major recall three years earlier than previously thought.

Amazon rose 0.2 per cent on news the online retailer will hike the subscription price of its "prime" service by 25 per cent.
A strong earnings report from home-goods retailer Williams-Sonoma lifted shares 9.8 per cent. The company said it outperformed the retail sector, posting fourth-quarter sales 4.3 per cent higher than a year ago and raising its quarterly dividend.

Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year US Treasury sank to 2.65 per cent from 2.73 per cent, while the 30-year fell to 3.60 per cent from 3.67 per cent. Bond prices and yields move inversely.

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