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Wall Street is suffering from a serious case of the Mondays, with stocks trading lower across the board at midday. Gloomy economic news is rolling in from all corners, which seems to have prompted the selling mood. Beijing gave the bears a jump-start bright and early, when Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao downwardly revised his country's 2012 growth forecast to an eight-year low of 7.5%. Over in Europe, meanwhile, Markit's composite euro-zone purchasing managers index (PMI) fell short of expectations, effectively exacerbating concerns about the world economy. In fact, the one silver lining among today's slate of economic data would have to be the ISM services index, which unexpectedly improved to 57.3 in February -- hitting its loftiest level in a year. That report was sufficient for Goldman Sachs to upwardly revise its first-quarter GDP estimate to 2.0% from 1.9%, but the non-manufacturing enthusiasm hasn't extended to the equities market. While the major indexes have moved off their intraday lows, the bears are still firmly in control this afternoon.
At last look, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA - 12,918.27) is down 59.3 points, or 0.5%. The S&P 500 Index (SPX - 1,360.66) has pulled back nearly 9 points, or 0.7%, and the Nasdaq Composite (COMP - 2,944.51) has tumbled 31.7 points, or 1.1%.
Checking in on Dow components, defensive favorite Merck (MRK - 38.38) is leading the 11 advancing issues with a 1.2% gain. Aluminum giant Alcoa (AA - 9.90), meanwhile, has been hit particularly hard by macroeconomic anxiety, with the shares down 3.3% to pace the 19 declining blue chips.
The CBOE Market Volatility Index (VIX - 18.57) gapped higher right out of the gate, and is up 7.4% as we head into the second half of the session. As a result, the VIX is now on track to close above both its 10-day and 20-day moving averages for the first time since Feb. 16.
Among equities in focus, Walgreen (WAG - 33.25) has tacked on 1.7% after reporting its February sales figures. Meanwhile, Fifth Third Bancorp (FITB - 13.31) has fallen 2.2% on the heels of a debt offering and a negative analyst note. In other brokerage news, Zynga (ZNGA - 13.82) has slumped 5.9% following a J.P. Morgan downgrade to "neutral," while Pandora Media (P - 14.75) has rocketed 6.1% after scoring an upgrade to "buy" at Stifel Nicolaus.