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Fears of a global downturn dragged the markets down on Friday and benchmarks registered their fourth consecutive week of losses. While recession worries in US unnerved investors, fears of financial destabilization on the European front strengthened the bearish mood.
Posting its 10th move of over 100 points in the last 15 trading days, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) shed 172 points or 1.6% to close at 10,817.65. The Standard & Poor 500 (S&P 500) slipped 1.5% to settle at 1,123.53. The Nasdaq Composite Index dropped 1.6% to finish the day at 2,341.84. The fear-gauge CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) settled over 43 and is far ahead of the technical level of 30. On the New York Stock Exchange, consolidated volumes were 5.16 billion shares. For every one stock that moved up, three stocks were on the declining side. On Friday, the benchmarks posted their biggest four-week decline since March 2009, and the Dow, S&P 500 and the Nasdaq dropped 4%, 4.7% and 6.6%, respectively, for the week.
The week had started with gains after merger and acquisition news boosted the indices. However, disappointing economic reports crippled the markets throughout the rest of the week. Additionally, concerns about the European financial system also weighed on investor sentiment. On Friday, markets had initially been trading in the green but fears of bad news from Europe coming to the forefront during the weekend soon pulled the benchmarks lower.
Two consecutive quarters of economic contraction is popularly believed to be a recession. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate is not providing any encouragement to economists at the moment and a slew of disappointing economic reports are making matters even worse. JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE:JPM) slashed its forecast for the fourth quarter economic-growth and now projects the US’ annual growth to be merely 1%. Earlier, the financial company had projected the growth rate to be 2.5% for the fourth quarter.
As for the S&P 500, it has now moved below a key-resistance level of 1, 130, with the analysts looking at 1, 100 as the next support level. All of the 10 industry groups in the index traded in the red and the index is now down 10.7% for the year. Additionally, the S&P 500 has moved down by 17.6% from its closing high on April 29.
Among the 30 Dow components, only 7 managed to finish higher. These seven stocks posted marginal gains with American Express Company (NYSE:AXP), Cisco Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ:CSCO), Chevron Corp. (NYSE:CVX), McDonald's Corp. (NYSE:MCD), Merck & Co. Inc. (NYSE:MRK), Procter & Gamble Co. (NYSE:PG), Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE:WMT) gaining 0.4%, 0.5%, 0.1%, 1.9%, 0.6%, 0.2% and 0.9%, respectively.
As for the decliners in the blue-chip index, Hewlett-Packard Company (NYSE:HPQ) suffered a massive blow as it plunged 20% and dragged the Dow 45 points lower. The tech-giant also recorded a six-year closing low. It was the company’s announcement of the possibility of spinning-off its PC business that led to its downfall on the bourses. Chief executive officer Leo Apotheker unveiled this significant restructuring plan as the company looks to focus on high-margin and high-growth businesses.
Among other tech bellwethers, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL), Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT), International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE:IBM) and Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC) declined by 2.7%, 2.5%, 3.8% and 2.9%, respectively.
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