U.S. Stocks Fall after GDP Data Hints are Weak Q1

 @MikeObelm.obel@ibtimes.com on January 27 2012 12:19 PM
NASDAQ Market Site in New York's Times Square
NASDAQ Market Site in New York's Times Square REUTERS

(REUTERS) -- U.S. stocks fell on Friday after data showed the U.S. economy grew less than expected in the fourth quarter, while weak earnings from Ford and continued caution over Europe's debt crisis also weighed on the market.

U.S. gross domestic product expanded at its fastest pace in 1-1/2 years in the fourth quarter of 2011, the Commerce Department said, but missed forecasts. A strong rebuilding of inventories and weak spending on capital goods hinted at slower growth this year.

Today's GDP numbers while positive indicate that the economy is not really doing all that well and (Federal Reserve) Chairman Bernanke's extreme policy may be in fact what's needed, said Michael Sheldon, chief market strategist at RDM Financial, Westport, Connecticut.

I wouldn't be surprised to see some profit-taking at any time, given the recent rally we've had.

Ford Motor Co (F.N) shares fell 5.5 percent to $12.04 after the carmaker reported a lower-than-expected fourth-quarter profit on higher commodity costs and losses in Europe and Asia.

The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI was down 37.31 points, or 0.29 percent, at 12,697.32. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index .SPX slipped 1.47 points, or 0.11 percent, at 1,316.96. The Nasdaq Composite Index .IXICwas up 3.55 points, or 0.13 percent, at 2,808.83.

Euro zone finance officials voiced optimism a deal to avert a disorderly Greek default was imminent and key building blocks to resolve Europe's sovereign debt crisis were gradually fitting into place. Renewed concern about the crisis has troubled markets this week.

Procter & Gamble Co (PG.N) shares fell 0.1 percent to $64.82 after its quarterly profit plunged 49 percent as it wrote down the value of its appliance and salon professional products businesses. It also said this year's profit would come in lower than previously expected due to the strong dollar.

Chevron Corp (CVX.N) reported lower earnings as increased spending on oil and gas projects and losses at its refinery business offset gains from higher crude oil prices. The shares fell 2.4 percent to $104.01.

Juniper Networks Inc (JNPR.N) and Riverbed Technologies Inc (RVBD.O) offered gloomy first-quarter outlooks late Thursday that were below expectations. Juniper was down 8.1 percent to $20.55.

According to Thomson Reuters data, 59 percent of 152 S&P 500 companies reporting earnings as of Thursday morning beat analysts' estimates. In recent quarters, the beat rate has been 70 percent at this stage of the earnings season.

A rally from late last year that has pushed the S&P 500 up 23 percent from lows in October has left the index facing tough resistance at around the 1,330 level, which marks a four-year downtrend line from its all-time highs in 2007.

Oliver Pursche, president at Gary Goldberg Financial Services in Suffern, New York, cautioned against reading too much into recent market strength.

He cited a volatile environment, in which there are plenty of global issues that can derail the global economy.

Eastman Chemical Co (EMN.N) offered to buy specialty chemical maker Solutia Inc (SOA.N) for about $3.38 billion in cash and stock to extend its reach in emerging markets, particularly the Asia-Pacific region. Solutia shares rose 41 percent to $27.59.

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