Sunday, April 15, 2012

U.S. Stocks Record Worst Week of 2012 on Spanish Yields and China GDP

U.S. markets fell on Friday on weaker-than-expected first quarter China GDP and the rising yield on Spanish sovereign debt. On Friday, the S&P 500 fell 17.30 points or 1.25% to 1,370.27. The Dow dropped 136.99 points or 1.05% to 12,849.59. For the week, the S&P 500 dropped 2%, while the Dow fell 1.4%. It was the worst week for the S&P 500 so far in 2012.

China GDP Disappoints

On Friday, China announced 1st quarter GDP growth of 8.1%, which was lower than the 8.4% the market expected. It was also the slowest growth in almost 3 years. This sparked concern about China's ability to boost world economic growth, at a time when the euro zone is in a recession.

Spanish Yields Spark Euro Zone Concerns

On Friday, the yield on Spain's 10-year government bonds approached 2012 highs, while CDS on Spanish government debt rose to a record high. The yield on Spain's 10-year government bonds rose to almost 6%, while CDS on Spanish debt reached 500 basis points for the first time. As a result, Europe's three largest indices fell on Friday, with the German DAX and the French CAC each falling by about 2%.
Concerns about the euro zone debt crisis negatively affected markets for much of the week. On Thursday, Italy had a disappointing bond action. 3-year government bonds were auctioned at 3.89%, much higher than the 2.76% in March. In addition, Italy's stock market fell 5% at one point on Wednesday.

U.S. Initial Jobless Claims Disappoint

After several weeks of falling initial jobless claims numbers, the claims number on Thursday disappointed markets when it rose over the previous week. Initial jobless claims rose to 380,000, worse than the 355,000 the market expected.

Looking Ahead to Next Week

Investors will be paying close attention to the second week of earnings season next week, when 10 Dow components including Intel will be reporting earnings. In addition, banks including Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley will be reporting results. This follows the better-than-expected earnings announced by JP Morgan and Wells Fargo last week.

With two consecutive weeks of decline for U.S. markets, if earnings beat expectations next week, markets will likely rise for the week if the euro zone situation does not worsen. However, if Spanish yields continue to climb, it would neutralize gains that the market achieves next week.

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