US stocks slump amid mixed economic data
NEW YORK. – US stocks traded in the negative zone last week amid jobs and productivity data and remarks from two regional Fed presidents. Traders believed that with the earnings season winding down, the market needs to focus on other positive catalyst and macro issues to push the market higher.
Kenneth Polcari, director of NYSE Floor Operations at O’Neil Securities Inc, predicted the stock market will move in a churning way. Meanwhile, Chicago Fed President Charles Evans said in an interview with CNBC last Thursday morning that the Federal Reserve had appropriate policies in place now and the Fed needs to continue the current quantitative easing for six months to a year.
Evans predicted the US unemployment rate would not achieve 6,5 percent until mid-2015 and believed the Fed’s ongoing policies have done a lot of good already but will remain accommodative until economy improves. Additionally, St Louis Fed president Jeremy Stein said the Fed may have to adjust monetary policy in the future to combat asset bubbles and the central bank should be “realistic” about the limitations of regulatory tools.
On the economic front, last week’s new jobless claims came in slightly better than the prior level, indicating that the jobs market is improving in a modest and restrained manner.
In the week ended February 2, initial jobless claims fell 5 000 to a seasonally adjusted 366 000 compared with the prior week’s revised up figure of 371 000. The four-week moving average of the claims, a less volatile measure, decreased 2 250 to 350 500 from the prior figure, the Labour Department said. Meanwhile, the US non-farm business sector’s labour productivity fell 2,0 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012 following a strong gain of 3,2 percent in the third quarter, while unit labour cost in the quarter rose 4,5 percent, according to a separate report by the Labour Department.
Apple’s shares rose 0,71 percent to 457,95 dollars a share after Greenlight Capital’s hedge fund manager David Einhorn filed a letter with the Securities and Exchange Commission and a lawsuit in federal court in New York over Apple’s proxy proposal to eliminate preferred stock from its corporate charter. Einhorn said the proposal, if passed by Apple’s shareholders, would hinder Apple’s ability to unlock value for shareholders.
Sony’s shares sank 4,46 percent to 15,12 dollars a share after the Japanese electronics maker reported a loss of 10,8 billion Japanese yen (US$115,65 million) in the fourth quarter of 2012 as a result of unwinding a series of joint ventures for mobile phones and liquid crystal displays (LCDs).
In Europe, the European Central Bank’s decision to keep rate on hold at 0,75 percent and ECB president Mario Draghi’s optimistic remarks on improved financial market conditions across the eurozone failed to boost European stocks.
In midday trading, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 113,92, or 0,81 percent, to 13 872,60. The S&P 500 Index edged down 10,37, or 0,69 percent, to 1 501,75. The Nasdaq Composite Index lost 23,17, or 0,73 percent, to 3 145,31. – Xinhua via The Herald – Zimbabwe.