H&W in the Media

Stocks Pare Losses; 3M Weak


NEW YORK-U.S. stocks pared some of their earlier losses as the dollar weakened, but disappointing jobs data and concerns over monetary tightening in China dampened sentiment.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 16 points, or 0.2%, to 10551, in recent trading. The Dow’s materials and industrials components suffered, including 3M, down 1.2%, DuPont, down 0.6% and Caterpillar, down 0.6%. Economically-sensitive General Electric was also weak, down 0.7%.

The Nasdaq Composite edged down 0.1%. The Standard & Poor’s 500 fell 0.2%, with all of its sectors in the red, except for technology. The declines were led by the consumer staples.

The materials sector also dragged after a report showed a higher-than-expected 2.7% rise in China’s consumer price index for February, reigniting conerns over how U.S. companies might be impacted if China moves to clamp down growth. China also said industrial production during the first two months of the year expanded 20.7% from a year earlier, picking up from an 18.5% rise in December and higher than the 19.5% rise economists had expected.

Other data showed that the rapid growth in China’s bank lending and investment spending slowed in February, a sign that the government’s gradual withdrawal of stimulus policies in recent months is starting to have an effect on the real economy.

“If China’s not going to be buying as much of our goods, that has a big impact on multi-nationals in the U.S. that generally lead us out of recession,” said Kevin Mahn, portfolio manager of Hennion & Walsh’s SmartGrowth Funds.

Among U.S. reports, the number of idled U.S. workers applying for jobless benefits fell by 6,000 last week, a positive sign for the labor market and the economy, although the weekly decline was smaller than the 9,000 drop economists had expected.

However, there was an unexpected narrowing in the U.S. trade gap. The Commerce Department reported the U.S. deficit in international trade of goods and services decreased 6.6% to $37.29 billion in January, lower than Wall Street expectations for a $41.0 billion shortfall.

Investors said this week’s one-year anniversary of the bull market prompted some anxiety among fund managers whose returns may not have matched the market’s meteoric rise in the last 12 months.

“I think people are primarily concerned about what the next leg in this bull market recovery will be,” Hennion and Walsh’s Mr. Mahn said.

In other markets Thursday, the dollar weakened against both the euro and the yen. Crude-oil futures fell below $82 a barrel while gold futures also moved lower. Treasurys slipped, with the 10-year note recently off 4/32 to yield 3.735%.

Among stocks in focus, Devon Energy climbed 1.3% as U.K. oil major BP agreed to buy its international and deepwater Gulf of Mexico portfolio in a $7 billion deal. American depositary shares of BP were up 0.5%. The deal gives BP seven exploration blocks in Brazil’s Campos basin, home to a number of significant producing oil fields.

Men’s Wearhouse fell 3.1% after the suit and apparel retailer swung to a fiscal fourth-quarter loss on a write-down and lower sales and margins.

Gymboree climbed 11%. The children’s apparel maker’s fiscal fourth-quarter profit grew 13%, topping the company’s February guidance on higher sales and margins.