Stock Markets – Jan. 27, 2012
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NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — U.S. stocks ended mostly lower Friday as jittery investors digested a weaker-than-expected economic growth report and as Europe’s debt crisis still loomed in the background.
The Nasdaq and S&P 500 logged a fourth straight week of gains, but the day’s declines in the Dow put the blue chip index in negative territory for the week, down 0.5%.
Friday’s slump came as investors reacted to the government’s first reading on fourth-quarter gross domestic product. The United States economy picked up speed at the end of 2011, growing at an annual rate of 2.8%, as consumers increased their spending. But the data fell short of the 3.2% forecast, based on a consensus of economists surveyed by Briefing.com.
While the worse-than-expected figure is disheartening, “the real disappointment is in the details” of the report, said Mark Chandler, global head of currency at Brown Brothers Harriman. Inventories rose during the quarter, accounting for a large part of the growth, but consumption growth, a measure of demand, was weak.
Investors had been hoping for news that would back up growing optimism about the nation’s economic recovery. Instead, the news seemed to jive with the Federal Reserve’s lower outlook for the economy.
The Fed announced Wednesday that it plans to keep the federal funds rate near zero until late 2014, because the recovery remains too slow to warrant higher interest rates any time soon.
Anxiety also continues to loom over Greece’s ongoing negotiations with private-sector creditors in an attempt to reduce its debt burden. Without an agreement, the country jeopardizes its access to bailout funds and might not be able to make a €14 billion debt payment that’s due March 20.
In addition, Fitch downgraded the sovereign debt ratings of five European countries, including Italy and Spain, which took the biggest hits.
U.S. stocks ended in the red Thursday, as investors digested a mixed batch of corporate earnings results, and remained cautious amid lackluster economic data and the continuing debt talks in Greece.
Companies: Earnings reports were also weighing on the market on Friday.
Chevron ( , Fortune 500) was the worst performing stock on the Dow. Shares sank 2.5% after the company posted its biggest drop in quarterly earnings in two years and widely missed Wall Street’s estimates.
Procter & Gamble (, Fortune 500) was also a big decliner on the Dow. Shares of the maker of Tide detergent, Crest toothpaste and Pringles snacks fell after the company lowered its outlook for the year.
An 5.4% drop in shares of DeVry () was a big factor in the S&P 500’s slide. The for-profit educator’s earnings plunged 90% and undergraduate enrollment continued to decline.
Starbucks (Nasdaq. While the coffee chain beat forecasts with strong earnings and revenue in its fourth quarter, shares slipped as investors were underwhelmed by the company’s profit outlook for the future., Fortune 500) was a big loser on the
Ford (, Fortune 500), aided by a one-time gain, posted 2011 profit of $20.2 billion — its biggest since 1998. But for the quarter alone, earnings missed forecasts, and shares tumbled.
On the flip side, shares of Newell Rubbermaid (, Fortune 500) and Eastman Chemical ( , Fortune 500) were big winners on the S&P 500 on the back of strong earnings.
Transocean () shares rose after a federal judge cleared the company of some damages related to the Deepwater Horizon spill, because it was shielded by a contract with well-owner BP. BP ( ) shares slumped.
Meanwhile, the Social Media ETF () spiked 5% on news that Facebook is planning to file IPO registration papers next Wednesday, according to the The Wall Street Journal. Shares of social media companies LinkedIn ( ), Pandora ( ), Groupon ( ) and Zynga ( ) also popped following the report.
Asian markets ended mixed. The Hang Seng (Nikkei ( ) was flat. Shanghai wrapped up a week-long celebration for Chinese New Year.) in Hong Kong added 0.3% and Japan’s
Economy: The University of Michigan’s final installment of its January Consumer Sentiment Index rose to 75, up from an initial reading of 74. Economists were expecting the index to come in at 74.2.
Currencies and commodities: The dollar fell against the euro, the British pound and the Japanese yen.
Oil for March delivery edged down 14 cents to settle at $99.56 a barrel.
Gold futures for February delivery rose $5.50 to $1,732.20 an ounce.
Bonds: The price on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury rose slightly, pushing the yield down to 1.90% from 1.93% late Thursday.
First Published: January 27, 2012: 9:41 AM ET