The major market indexes prolonged last week's retreat, as stocks spent the entire session traveling well below breakeven. As traders were gearing up for the opening bell this morning, a couple of downbeat economic reports from abroad unleashed the bearish sentiment. China slashed its 2012 growth forecast to an eight-year low, as Premier Wen Jiabao emphasized that his country must find ways to sustain its development. Meanwhile, another cause for concern was the euro-zone purchasing managers index (PMI), which failed to meet expectations. Back at home, the news was a little brighter, as the Commerce Department reported a smaller-than-forecast decline in January factory orders, and the Institute for Supply Management's (ISM) non-manufacturing index -- which measures activity in the service sector -- came in stronger than expected, hitting its highest point in a year. But, besides prompting Goldman Sachs to up its first-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) outlook, this encouraging data didn't incite any buying interest on Wall Street. Against this backdrop, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) dropped 0.1%, while the Nasdaq Composite (COMP) fell 0.9%.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA – 12,962.81) was down nearly 94 points at its early low, but was able to pare its loss to 14.8 points, or 0.1%. Among the Dow's 30 blue chips, Alcoa (AA) led the 16 losing components with a 3.6% deficit. Merck (MRK) paced the advancing group, with a 1.4% jump.
The S&P 500 Index (SPX – 1,364.33) also took a hit, and recorded a 5.3-point, or 0.4%, slide. Lastly, the Nasdaq Composite (COMP – 2,950.48) performed the worst of its fellow benchmarks, and burned off 25.7 points, or 0.9%, by the time the dust settled.
Turning to equities in focus, Walgreen Company (WAG) reported a dip in same-store sales after the termination of its contract with Express Scripts (ESRX) ...
Fifth Third Bancorp (FITB) announced plans to sell 10-year senior notes in a $500-million public offering ...
Rambus (RMBS) inked a five-year patent agreement with MediaTek after a judge ruled in favor of the latter regarding a patent violation dispute...
Shares of Arcos Dorados (ARCO) fell after the McDonald's franchisee reported a weaker-than-expected fourth-quarter profit...
and today's Quote of the Day comes from Shore Store owner Danny Merk, who has seen business spike at his T-shirt shop since he agreed to employ the castmates of Jersey Shore. As Merk told CNBC.com:
"I hope [the series] goes on forever, and I hope they come back and do the show for years and years, but I don't think Snooki's liver would be able to take it."
But these weren't the only headlines hitting the Street today. Click on the links below for our blog coverage of:
And, in case you missed it, Bernie Schaeffer talked about the meaning of "double lows" in this month's Option Advisor commentary. Click here to read Bernie's comments on how to trade around these crucial technical levels.
For today's activity in crude oil, gold futures, options, and more, turn to page 2.
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