Stocks struggle ahead of Fed meeting
Weak China data drags on global stocks even as it increases hopes for more stimulus. An eventful week in Europe could provide more hurdles for the eurozone. The government will sell $18B in AIG shares.
Stocks maintained a narrow range Monday ahead of the Federal Reserve's meeting this week and as China reported data that heightened concerns of a slowdown in growth in the world's second-largest economy.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average ($INDU) was up 8 points at 13,315. The S&P 500 ($INX) was down 1 point at 1,437. The Nasdaq Composite ($COMPX) was down 10 points at 3,126.
Last week, stocks posted multiyear highs as investors bet the Federal Reserve will approve more easing measures this week to stimulate the economy, and as the European Central Bank announced details of its bond-buying plan to help curb borrowing costs of struggling eurozone countries. And a lackluster employment report Friday -- which showed only 96,000 jobs were gained in August, compared with the expected 130,000 -- added to expectation the Fed will act.
This trend of bad data actually boosting stocks because they raise expectations for further stimulus repeated itself Monday in Asia. Most markets finished higher despite weak Chinese data that had analysts expecting the Chinese economy to have its weakest year of expansion since 1999.
Imports in China fell 2.6% on the year in August, well below expectations for a 3.5% rise. Exports grew 2.7%, again below forecasts for a 3% rise in a Reuters poll. Exports in China generate 25% of GDP, causing some economists to fear China may miss its official 7.5%.
Also, data on Sunday showed China industrial output growth hit its weakest annual pace in August in more than three years. The data, however, solidifies expectations that the government will initiate more stimulus measures.
Concern over Europe far from over
In Europe, stock markets moved lower as investors remained cautious ahead of a German constitutional court ruling and the Fed's policy meeting Wednesday and Thursday.
While the IMF backed the ECB's plan to buy unlimited government debt to ease pressure on struggling eurozone economies, the German court is set to rule Wednesday on a challenge to Germany's participation in the European Stability Mechanism, the eurozone's permanent rescue fund.
The same day, there will be general elections in the Netherlands. And European finance ministers will meet in Cyprus on Friday to try to solve differences over banking supervision and possible extra aid for Spain and Greece.
Stocks to watch
American International Group (AIG) fell after the U.S. Treasury Department said it will sell most of its stake in the insurer, or $18 billion in stock. This transaction will likely make the government a minority investor, according to Bloomberg -- from the current 53% stake to as low as 23% -- for the first time since it rescued the company four years ago with a $180 billion bailout.
Michael Kors (KORS) dipped after the high-fashion retailer said after the close Friday that some of its investors will sell 20 million shares in a so-called secondary sale.
Apple (AAPL) is expected to unveil information about the iPhone 5 later this week.
Intel (INTC) shares dipped again Monday. The chipmaker cut its revenue outlook Friday, but the Wall Street Journal's Heard On The Street reported it may have to cut its revenue further as sales from developing nations may be declining at a faster rate than the company and analysts are expecting.
Sprint Nextel (S) shares jumped Monday after Nomura Securities upgraded the stock to a "buy" rating and boosted the price target on the wireless operator to $7 from $2.50.
Tyco International (TYC), the maker of fire-detection systems whose former executives were convicted of fraud, fell in Europe as JPMorgan Chase advised reducing holdings in the company, Bloomberg reported.
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All hail the bull market, which ended the week with a big rally. But it also is starting to look a little like 1987, which suffered an epic blow-out.
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