Friday, 23 October 2009

Stocks, oil slide on recovery worries

By Herbert Lash

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.S. dollar rose and global stocks fell on Friday as energy shares followed crude prices lower and investors worried about the pace of a fledgling U.S. economic recovery.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed below the 10,000 mark, as weak results from industrials overshadowed robust earnings from bellwethers in technology.

The dollar and euro soared against sterling after data showed Britain was still mired in recession, with the economy shrinking 0.4 percent in the third quarter, which stunned investors who had expected a return to growth.

Sterling plunged nearly three cents against the dollar and notched its biggest one-day decline against the euro in six months as traders bet the Bank of England was more likely to expand its quantitative easing program to secure a recovery.

The euro retreated, falling below $1.50.

Oil stocks reversed early gains as U.S. crude futures settled almost 1 percent lower on scepticism that recovery was robust enough to spur demand.

"Any time the dollar shows signs of life, the stock market goes down. There's a flight to safety," said Joe Saluzzi, co-manager of trading at Themis Trading in Chatham, New Jersey.

"The (weak) UK GDP gave strength to the dollar. And when the dollar is up, oil falls."

World stocks fell, with the MSCI All-Country Word Index .MIWD00000PUS losing 0.76 percent.

Weak industrial sector earnings also made investors question the recovery's strength, which overshadowed robust results from technology heavyweights Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) and Inc (AMZN.O).

Shares of Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp (BNI.N), the No. 2 U.S. railroad, slid 6.5 percent after it posted a 30 percent drop in quarterly profit. The stock helped drag an S&P industrials index .GSPI down 1.7 percent.

The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI closed down 109.13 points, or 1.08 percent, at 9,972.18. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index .SPX slid 13.31 points, or 1.22 percent, at 1,079.60. The Nasdaq Composite Index .IXIC fell 10.82 points, or 0.50 percent, at 2,154.47.

For the week, the Dow was off 0.2 percent, the S&P 500 shed 0.7 percent and the Nasdaq slipped 0.1 percent.

Stocks fell despite a surge in sales of previously owned U.S. homes to a two-year high in September. Analysts said the rise was partially driven by a soon-to-expire tax incentive for first-time buyers.

Weekly U.S. government data showing a decrease in stores of gasoline helped push crude prices lower, even as overall fuel inventories are still much higher than a year ago.

"Oil is holding around $80 but the decline in equities markets and a stronger dollar mean the rally in oil prices has been stalled for now," said Gene McGillian, analyst at Tradition Energy in Stamford, Connecticut.

U.S. crude for December delivery settled down 69 cents a barrel at $80.50, while Brent crude settled down 59 cents to $78.92.

The dollar rose against a basket of major currencies, with the U.S. Dollar Index .DXY up 0.48 percent at 75.476.

The euro was down 0.18 percent at $1.4995, and against the yen, the dollar was up 0.74 percent at 92.07.

U.S. Treasury debt prices eased as investors positioned to cut prices ahead of next week's record sales of government notes.

The benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note was down 19/32 in price to yield 3.49 percent.

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 .FTEU3 index of top shares closed down 0.6 percent at 1,008.88. The index is up 21 percent this year and has gained almost 56 percent from a record low hit in March after sliding 45 percent in 2008.

"If you go through the corporate earnings results, the top line is still suggesting it's a difficult environment for improving sales," said analyst Jane Foley of

Gold dropped in choppy trade. U.S. December gold futures settled down $2.20 at $1,056.40 an ounce in New York.

But copper climbed to a 13-month high on favourable economic data. Copper for December delivery rose 3.65 cents to settle at $3.0345 a pound, after touching $3.0620.

The MSCI index of Asia Pacific stocks traded outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS was up 1.3 percent.

The Nikkei index .N225 in Tokyo finished up 0.2 percent.

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