MARKET SNAPSHOT: U.S. Stocks Fall As Energy Sector Slumps

Date : 08/20/2010 @ 1:23PM
Source : Dow Jones News
Stock : Patterson-Uti Energy, Inc. (PTEN)
Quote : 24.48  0.6 (2.51%) @ 5:54PM

MARKET SNAPSHOT: U.S. Stocks Fall As Energy Sector Slumps

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By Kristina Peterson

The energy sector led U.S. stocks lower Friday, with equities sliding further into the red in a week punctuated by disappointing economic data.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) fell 105 points. The measure is now firmly in the red for the week, as disappointing jobs and manufacturing data on Thursday wiped out gains from excitement over a resurgence in global merger activity.

Friday's slide in the euro reminded investors of lingering sovereign debt concerns and added to the week's push and pull between encouraging corporate news and weaker-than-expected macroeconomic data. A resurgence in deal activity to the highest levels since late 2009 contrasted with persistent reminders of the struggling global economic recovery.

"We're in this mediocre and low-growth path until another year or so goes by -- to me that's what this week says again," said Barbara Marcin, portfolio manager of the Gabelli Blue Chip Value Fund. "We're not back to the levels we were a couple years ago and therefore people aren't going to hire, and until we get some employment growth back, we're not going to restore confidence."

The Dow fell 1% to 10,165. Among the measure's worst performers, Caterpillar (CAT) fell 2.1%, General Electric (GE) shed 2% and manufacturing giant 3M (MMM) slid 1.8%.

The Nasdaq Composite Index (RIXF) shed 0.7% to 2,165. The Standard & Poor's 500-share index (SPX) dropped 0.9% to 1,066.

Energy stocks led Friday's decline as crude-oil prices fell more than 1.4% to below $74 a barrel. Sterne Agee & Leach cut its stock-investment ratings on land drillers to "neutral" from "buy," citing rising service costs, among other factors. Nabors Industries fell 4.4%, while Patterson-UTI Energy (PTEN) fell 5.3% and Helmerich & Payne (HP) slid 4.3%.

Multinational companies with overseas operations also slid as the euro weakened. The common currency touched a one-month low after a European Central Bank official suggested monetary policy should remain loose until next year.

The euro was recently trading at $1.2692, down from $1.2819 late Thursday in New York. The U.S. dollar index (DXY), which tracks the currency against a basket of six others, jumped 0.8%.

Demand for safe-haven Treasurys rose, pushing the yield on the 10-year note (UST10Y) down to 2.57%. The two-year note's (UST2YR) yield hit a record low of 0.455% overnight, but edged up slightly in recent trading to 0.48%.

Light trading in August has kept the market bouncing in a narrow range. After three hours of trading, less than 2 billion shares had traded hands in New York Stock Exchange Composite volume, on pace to fall below the daily average of 5.1 billion.

"The market, being range-bound, is at the mercy of whoever last spoke and the most recent number. It is very frenetic in its reaction to news," said Liz Ann Sonders, chief investment strategist at Charles Schwab.

Among stocks in focus, Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) dropped 2.8%, even as its profit climbed 6.1% on higher worldwide sales in its fiscal third-quarter, the technology giant's final quarter with Mark Hurd at its helm. But investors have been skittish about H-P since Hurd left the company two weeks ago, during which the stock has lost about 12% of its value.


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