Mid-Day Update: Stocks Slide as Greece Moves Closer to Default, U.S. Consumer Confidence Retreats and Trade Deficit Widens
Stocks are lower as a deal among Greek political leaders on a 325-million-euro ($431 million) austerity package still could fall apart, and the U.S. trade deficit widened to a six-month high.
Euro-zone finance chiefs are withholding a 130-billion-euro ($172 billion) rescue package until Greek officials commit to the spending cuts. Without a deal, Greece likely will miss a 14.5 billion-euro bond payment due March 20, triggering a default on its sovereign debt, and possibly leaving other vulnerable countries teetering near default as investor confidence wanes that the European Union can repair its internal finances.
Meanwhile, the gap between American imports and exports rose 3.7% to $48.8 billion from $47.1 billion in November, the Commerce Department said. Purchases of goods and services produced overseas were the strongest in more than three years on record demand for capital equipment like machinery and semiconductors.
The median forecast in a Bloomberg News survey of 75 economists called for the deficit to rise to $48.5 billion from a previously estimated $47.8 billion in November. Estimates ranged from gaps of $43 billion to $50.5 billion. For all of 2011, the shortfall grew 12% to $558 billion, the most since 2008. Both imports and exports climbed to records.
Also, the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan overall index of consumer sentiment was 72.5 in early February, data showed on Friday, down from 75.0 in January and below the reading of 74.5 expected in a Reuters poll of economists. The drop was surprising following recent gains in employment. It helped send stocks lower after its 10 a.m. ET release, although shares have rebounded slightly near mid-day.
All 10 S&P 500 industries sectors are lower, paced by declines in materials and energy stocks.
In company news, LinkedIn Corp ( LNKD ) is up nearly 16% after Q4 sales more than doubled and the business social networking site forecast increased 2012 revenue.
True Religion Apparel Inc ( TRLG ) plunges more than 23% after missing with both Q4 revenues and EPS, posting earnings of $0.62 a share on $119.24 million in revenues. Analsyst had been expecting a $0.71 EPS and $127.98 million in revenues. A gloomy projection for FY 2012 also disappointed investors.
Commodities are lower. Gold for March delivery is off $20.70 a share at $1,719.30 an ounce. Copper futures, often seen as a proxy for global growth expectations, is down 11.1 cents at $3.8680 a pound. Crude oil also is lower, with the NYMEX March contract off $1.31 at $98.53 a barrel, nearly unchanged from earlier this morning. Brent March futures are down 0.83% at $117.61 a barrel, gaining nearly $1 off its session lows. March natural gas also has reversed course since this morning, giving up its smallish gains, and is now flat at $2.47 per 1 million British Thermal Units.
Among precious metal ETFs, the Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF is down 1.32% at $54.52 while the SPDR Gold Trust is off 0.55% at $167.10. The iShares Silver Trust is down 0.46% at $32.75.
Among energy ETFs, United States Oil Fund is down 1.30% at $37.83 with the United States Natural Gas Fund ahead 0.76% at $5.28.
Here's where markets stand at mid-day:
NYSE Composite Index down 90.68 (1.12%) at 7,990.57.
Dow Jones Industrial Average down 118.94 (0.92%) at 12,771.52.
S&P 500 down 10.91 (0.81%) at 1,341.04.
NASDAQ Composite down 20.68 (0.71%) at 2,906.55.
Nikkei down 0.61%.
Hang Seng up down 1.08%.
Shanghai Composite up 0.10%.
FTSE-100 down 0.73%.
MID-DAY NYSE INDEX WATCH
NYSE Energy down 1.18% to 13,113.49.
NYSE Financial down 1.42% to 4,551.68.
NYSE Health Care down 0.77% to 7,133.11.
NYSE Arca Tech 100 down 0.72% to 1,222.17.
(+) CIE, (+27.8%) New oil off Angola coast topped expectations.
(+) IPSU, (+18.3%) Extending gains after saying Thursday it may sell Wholesome Sweeteners unit. .
(-) AMRS, (-27.9%) Reportedly withdrew 2012 production and cash flow forecasts.
(-) XIDE, (-22.4%) Q3 financial results disappoint, pares 2012 guidance