U.S. stocks ended the last day of April on a sour note with all three major indexes posting their first monthly loss of the year, following three months of solid gains. Investors were spooked by a duo of lackluster U.S. economic reports and news that confirmed Spain has plunged into a double-dip recession.
The U.S. economy appeared to have further softened as it entered the second quarter. Americans pared spending in March after splurging in February, and a gauge of business activity in the Midwest fell to a 29-month low in April. Another report showed manufacturing activities in the Texas-area turned negative in April.
Adding to the negative sentiment were worries about Europe slipping into a recession intensified after Spain's economy contracted for the second consecutive quarter, the common definition of a recession.
Ratings agency Standard & Poor's cut the credit ratings of 11 Spanish banks on Monday following its move Friday that downgraded Spain to just three notches above junk.
Stocks. Asian bourses were broadly higher, though trading was light given markets in Japan and Shanghai were closed for holidays. European stocks snapped a four-session rally with Spain's IBEX index finishing April down 12.7 percent in its worst monthly showing in nearly one and a half years. The benchmark S&P 500 index shed 5.58 points to close at 1,397.78. The Dow Jones Industrial Average slid 17.10 points, to end at 13,211.21, posting its first monthly decline since September. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite dropped 22.84 points, to 3,046.36. Several major markets will be shut on Tuesday for May Day.
Bonds. Investors made a run for safety, pushing up Treasuries and German bunds. Yields on 10-year Treasury notes, which move inversely to prices, fell two basis points to 1.91 percent and the rate on similar maturity German bunds declined four points to 1.66 percent.
Currencies. The U.S. dollar weakened 0.6 percent to 79.83 yen, breaching the 80 yen psychological level for the first time since Feb. 24, while strengthening against the euro. The greenback also rebounded from an eight-month low against the pound sterling.
Commodities. Oil prices tracked equities lower, with benchmark oil for June delivery off six cents, to end at $104.87 a barrel. Natural gas futures surged 4.5 percent, adding another day of gains to a week-long rally, after a government report showed a drop in production in February. Gold ended Monday nearly unchanged, while silver closed down 46 cents an ounce at $30.96. Copper futures edged higher in low volume, setting a three-week high. Agricultural futures gained.