New York: US stocks closed at their lowest levels in a month on Monday in a sign of increasing doubt that equity markets can weather recent weakness in global manufacturing and demand.
Industrial, energy and technology stocks, closely related to growth, were among the day’s top decliners. Poor manufacturing figures from Germany and China were a surprise and gave investors reason to shed positions in those industries.
Mining machinery maker Caterpillar Inc, a Dow component, lost 2.3% to $101.89, while the S&P industrial sector index fell 1.4% and the S&P info-technology sector index declined 1.5%.
The drama surrounding the euro zone’s debt crisis added to investor anxiety. It furthered a recent trend of selling commodities, the euro, and stocks in tandem.
The main driver of the market’s decline is “a combination of global economic cooling and an increase in risk from Europe,” according to Paul Zemsky, head of asset allocation at ING in New York.
“Throw in the Greek downgrade on Friday, warnings about other countries being downgraded ... it’s just a negative cocktail right now.”
Negative ratings actions on Greece and Italy and regional election results in Spain raised concerns about the deepening of the euro zone’s debt problems. Investors worry that voter rebellions against austerity plans could put some government debt at risk of default.
The euro hit a two-month low against the US currency.
The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 130.78 points, or 1.05%, to 12,381.26. The Standard & Poor’s 500 lost 15.90 points, or 1.19%, to 1,317.37. The Nasdaq Composite fell 44.42 points, or 1.58%, to 2,758.90.
In a sign of technical weakness, the S&P 500 closed below its 50-day moving average for the first time since 19 April. It is also at its lowest level since that day.
Global stocks as measured by MSCI dropped 1.8%, the biggest daily decline in more than two months.
The stronger dollar hurt commodity prices and stocks in the energy and basic materials sectors. Large exporters, which have benefited from a weaker U.S. currency, were also hit hard.
Shares of Coca-Cola Co fell 1.2% to $67.49 and equipment manufacturer Joy Global Inc dropped 3.1% to $87.54.
“A dollar rising is near-term negative for stocks while commodities (falling) can have both positive and negative aspects,” ING’s Zemsky said.
“On one hand, (commodities) are showing growth is slower than what people originally thought, but at the same time, it’s also a big tax cut to the consumer through lower gasoline prices.”
Gasoline futures are down roughly 15% so far this month. On Monday, US July crude oil futures lost 2.4% to settle at $97.70 a barrel.
An S&P index of top US retailers’ stocks performed better than the overall market, falling 0.46%.
About 6.44 billion shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange, NYSE Amex and Nasdaq, far below last year’s estimated daily average of 8.47 billion and under the 7.63 billion traded daily on average so far this year.
Decliners beat advancers on the NYSE by a ratio of almost 4 to 1, while on the Nasdaq, more than four stocks fell for every one that rose.