The bears were on the prowl Friday, as negative economic news out of China, Spain, and the U.S. left global investors struggling to find safe places for their cash -- and the positive developments that did surface appeared to have little effect.
Disappointing data on China's gross-domestic-product growth sent Latin American securities plunging on the expectation demand from that economic giant would drop, even as Asian markets saw modest gains. Worrisome developments on Spanish banks' ability to borrow caused stocks in that country to fall, but also wreaked havoc on French and German equities. Worse-than-expected U.S. consumer sentiment data weighed on U.S. and European markets.
Better-than-forecast earnings reports from Google Inc. (Nasdaq: GOOG), JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM) and Wells Fargo & Co. (NYSE: WFC) did not seem to raise the market's spirits, or even insulate shareholders in those companies from the wider pessimistic momentum.
Here's a look at how the markets fared:
Stocks. Asian stock markets were mostly higher. European stocks were battered, with key German and French indexes down more than 2 percent. The culprits were news from Beijing and a report showing Spanish banks growing increasingly dependent on European Central Bank funding. The benchmark S&P 500 index of U.S. equities was down 1.25 percent to 1,370.26.
Bonds. Besides fleeing to cold, hard cash, investors went headfirst into safe-haven U.S. and German government notes. U.S. T-notes rallied, and yields, which move inversely to price, were down to 1.998 percent, a significant drop from the previous day's close of 2.058 percent. The 10-year German bund yield fell seven basis points to 1.634 percent, a historical low that bond traders expect could be surpassed next week.
Currencies. The dollar had an outsize rally, making up for some recent large declines. The U.S. dollar index was up 0.69 percent for the day. The dollar's upswing stemmed from the growing differential between greenbacks and certain European currencies, which crushed the benchmark Continent-based currencies. The euro and British pound both lost close to 1 percent, recently trading at $1.3076 and $1.5847, respectively.
Commodities. The booming dollar meant commodities were down across the board. Agricultural goods, industrial metals, energy futures, and precious metals all fell. The benchmark gold futures contract for June delivery fell $20.4 to $1,660.2 per ounce. A barrel of light, sweet crude was down 79 cents to $102.85 on the New York Mercantile Exchange.