Stocks Sink as Investors Digest Obama Jobs Proposal; European Debt Worries Surface Anew

Stocks are lower in mid-day trading, with all three major indexes down more than 2%, as investors continue to struggle with economic malaise after neither Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke comments nor President Barack Obama's speech to Congress last night inspired investor confidence in the economic recovery.

In economic data released after the opening bell this morning, U.S. wholesale inventories rose to a record high in July partly due to higher stocks of unsold computer equipment, machinery and apparel, a government report said. Total wholesale inventories rose 0.8% to $462.4 billion, the Commerce Department said, in line with analysts' forecasts and following a 0.6% rise in June.

U.S. stocks fell Thursday after hopes that Fed chief Ben Bernanke would use a speech to hint at another round of stimulus were not met. In his evening address, President Obama announced a $447 billion plan to create jobs. The plan was bigger than anticipated, topping expectations for a price tag of around $300 billion. Analysts are issuing mixed responses to the proposal's chances of righting a seemingly stalled recovery.

In overseas news, Japanese growth figures were revised down. But Chinese consumer and producer price indexes showed inflation cooling in August, with the CPI 6.2% higher than a year earlier, easing from July's three-year-high inflation rate of 6.5%.

In company news:

Shares of Apple Inc. ( AAPL ) are down while Sterne Agee analyst Shaw Wu raised his forecast for Apple's quarterly results on Friday, Market Watch reported. Wu cited strength in the company's iPhone business. Wu maintained his $500 target for Apple and Buy rating.

Kroger Co. ( KR ) is down after Q2 profits rose largely on higher sales of gasoline, but the gains missed Street estimates, sending shares lower. Kroger reported a net income of $280.8 million, or 46 cents per share, up 7.3% from $261.6 million, or 41 cents a share, last year. Ex items, earnings were 41 cents per share, below analyst's consensus view for 43 cents. Revenue rose 11.5% to $20.9 billion, while analysts were looking for $20.5 billion.

Shares of McDonald's ( MCD ) are down 4.45%, or $3.92, to $84.69 a share after its global comp sales rose 3.5% in August, missing analyst predictions of 4.9%.

Bank of America is down on news that job cuts could amount to 40,000 positions as part of its restructuring plan. BofA executives are meeting at its Charlotte, NC, headquarters to make final decisions on the reductions, putting the finishing touches on five months of work, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the plans.

Commodities are down. December gold contracts are down 0.03% to $1,857 an ounce while October crude oil contacts are down 3.4% to $86.02 a barrel.

In energy ETFs, the United States Oil Fund ( USO ) is down 3.4% to $33.29 and the United States Natural Gas fund ( UNG ) is down 0.9%, to $9.96.

In precious metal ETFs, the SPDR Gold Trust (GLD) is down 0.03% to $181.67. Market Vectors Gold Miners (GDX) is down 0.74% to $66.14. iShares Silver Trust (SLV) is down 0.17% to $41.15.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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