Wall Street Pounded by Earnings, Emerging-Market Woes

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Wall Street
Richard Drew/AP
By Adam Samson

U.S. stocks came under heavy pressure on Friday as concerns about emerging markets flared up as Wall Street looks to close its worst January in four years.

Today's Markets

As of 10:00 a.m. Eastern time, the Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) dropped 194 points, or 1.2 percent, to 15654, the S&P 500 (^GPSC) fell 17.2 points, or 0.95 percent, to 1777 and the Nasdaq Composite (^IXIC) slumped 35.4 points, or 0.86 percent, to 4088.

January has been a stark contrast to 2013, when the S&P 500 rallied 30 percent. This month alone, the S&P 500 has shed more than 3 percent in its worst start of a year since on a percent basis since 2010.

Global worries boiled back to the surface again on Friday.

Emerging-market currencies took yet blow on the day, with the Turkish lira, South African rand, Russian ruble and others sustaining another hit. Traders said the move came after a slew of small factors -- like commentary from a Hungarian minister -- sent skittish traders ditching risky currencies.

In a sign of the worries about emerging markets, investors yanked $6.4 billion from emerging-market stock funds in the week ended this Wednesday, Reuters reported citing a Bank of America Merrill Lynch report. The outflow was the biggest since August 2011.

On top of that, eurozone inflation cooled to a year-over-year pace of 0.7 percent in January from 0.8 percent in December -- lower than economists expected.
The European Central Bank has dropped interest rates to record lows in a bid to push prices higher and avoid a potentially deflationary situation.

Still, Michael Block, chief strategist at Rhino Trading Partners, said the cooling inflation isn't all bad.

"EU deflation is a bad is good scenario because it has expectations rising that the ECB will do some form of accommodation in March," he said.

Echoing that remark, analysts at Societe Generale told clients "while euro inflation will be low by historical standards ... inflation is comfortably far away from deflation."

Block added that Friday's action is also being driven by "risk management" as traders adjust positions after what has been a tough month for Wall Street.

"This is not fundamental," he said, "it is pain related."

On the corporate front, Google (GOOG) revealed mixed quarterly results, while Amazon.com (AMZN) missed on both lines. Walmart (WMT) cut its fourth-quarter view to a range just below what it previously said, sending shares of the world's biggest retailer sliding.

Elsewhere, the Commerce Department reports consumer spending rose 0.4 percent in December, slightly above expectations of 0.2 percent, while personal income remained unchanged from November. Economists expected personal income to rise 0.2 percent.

The Institute for Supply Management-Chicago's PMI index showed manufacturing in the region slowed to 59.6 in January, slightly higher than Wall Street's estimate of 59, but down slightly from December's 60.8. The new orders sub-component surged to 64.6 from 43.9 the month prior. Readings above 50 point to expansion, while those below indicate contraction.

A reading on consumer sentiment from Thomson Reuters and the University of Michigan rose slightly in late January to 81.2 from a preliminary reading of 80.4 earlier in the month. Wall Street anticipated a reading of 81.

In commodities, U.S. crude oil futures fell $1.06, or 1.1 percent, to $97.17 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline fell 0.66 percent to $2.645 a gallon. Gold rose $6.80, or 0.55 percent, to $1,249 a troy ounce.

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