December 15, 2017
Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Wall Street falls after data; automakers decline

US stocks eased today as weaker-than-expected economic data spurred concerns over growth ahead of Friday's jobs report and first-quarter earnings.

Leading the day's declines for a second day was the S&P health care sector, which fell 1.2 percent. Health care was the strongest sector in the first quarter, appreciating 6.2 percent.

Shares of automakers also declined after reporting March sales. Shares of General Motors were down 2 percent at $36.74 while Ford was down 1.4 percent at $15.91 as sales dipped at both companies.

US private employers added the smallest number of workers in more than a year in March and factory activity hit a near two-year low, fresh signs that economic growth slowed significantly in the first quarter.

The reports precede Friday's jobs data, the most widely watched indicator of the week, though that arrives on Good Friday when the stock market will be closed.

Investors also are anxious ahead of the start of first-quarter earnings, which strategists say could be hurt by the rising dollar's impact on multinational companies. Estimates for first-quarter earnings have fallen sharply since Jan. 1, Thomson Reuters data showed.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 77.94 points, or 0.44 percent, to 17,698.18, the S&P 500 lost 8.2 points, or 0.4 percent, to 2,059.69 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 20.66 points, or 0.42 percent, to 4,880.23.

The S&P 500 and Nasdaq finished their ninth straight quarter of gains on Tuesday, while the Dow dipped for the quarter.

European shares began the quarter with gains, after data showed manufacturing activity across the euro zone accelerated faster than previously estimated last month.

Markit's final March manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) reached a 10-month high of 52.2, beating a preliminary reading of 51.9 to provide another sign the bloc's economy is recovering.

The bullish PMI readings helped Spain's IBEX rise 0.6 percent and Italy's FTSE MIB gain 1 percent. Each touched its highest level since 2010.

Banks were the biggest winners, with the STOXX Europe 600 banks sub-index up 1.1 percent. Spanish banks Popular , Banco de Sabadell and Bankia rose 2.8 to 1.6 percent.

France's Credit Agricole rose 3.1 percent, hitting its highest level since November 2009 to take gains this year to more than 30 percent, after Deutsche Bank raised its target price on the stock.

At the close, the FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares was up 0.3 percent at 1,589.87 points.

The benchmark index surged 16 percent in the first quarter as the European Central Bank pumped out money and the euro weakened. Wednesday's PMIs contributed to the picture of a strengthening economy.

Meanwhile, Tokyo shares fell today as investors sold recent gainers to lock in profit on the first day of the Japanese financial year and after a disappointing tankan business sentiment survey from the Bank of Japan.

Both the Nikkei share average and the Topix fell below their 25-day moving average, a key short-term support level, clouding the outlook for the market that posted its biggest gain in five quarters in January-March.

The Nikkei fell 0.9 percent to 19,034.84, closing below its 25-day average, at 19,158.60, for the first time since Feb. 3. The broader Topix dropped 0.9 percent to 1,528.99, while the JPX-Nikkei Index 400 fell 1.0 percent to 13,890.43.

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Tags:  US  stock market  Europe  Nikkei  

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