Another sign of weakness in China sends U.S. stocks lower
North American markets fell hard as Canada's main stock index again posted its worst day in more than three years. (File)
Marley Jay, The Associated Press
Published Monday, January 14, 2019 6:43AM EST
Last Updated Monday, January 14, 2019 11:33AM EST
NEW YORK -- Stock markets around the world are down slightly Monday after China reported a drop in exports in December. Fears about the health of China's economy and the global economy overall were a major contributor to the stock market's plunge in late 2018.
U.S. indexes steadied in afternoon trading following losses of about 1 per cent in early trading. A strong quarterly report from Citigroup helped bank stocks trade higher, but drugmakers fell after Democrats in the House of Representatives launched an investigation into prescription drug pricing.
KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 index fell 10 points, or 0.4 per cent, to 2,586 as of 2 p.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 230 points Monday morning, but recovered most of that and was down just 75 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 23,920. The Nasdaq composite retreated 42 points, or 0.6 per cent, to 6,928. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks shed 5 points, or 0.4 per cent, to 1,442.
The S&P 500 dropped almost 20 per cent from late September until the day before Christmas, partly because investors were worried that the global economy was slowing down dramatically and could go into a recession soon. Since Dec. 26, stocks have regained about half of what they lost in the downturn, but investors remain sensitive to signs of economic trouble.
DRUG PRICES: A leading House Democrat announced a sweeping investigation of the pharmaceutical industry's pricing practices. Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings said he sent letters to 12 major manufacturers seeking detailed information and documents about pricing practices for drugs that are used to treat conditions including cancer, diabetes, kidney failure and nerve pain.
The Trump administration is pursuing its own plan to lower drug prices by approving more generic medications and trying to do away with industry practices that allow manufacturers, insurers and pharmacy benefit managers to profit at the consumer's expense.
Drugmaker AbbVie fell 2.6 per cent to $84.97 while Merck lost 2.1 per cent to $73.35.
MAKING BANK: Citigroup said its profits rose in the last three months of 2018, helped by a lower tax rate and lower expenses. Its profit and revenue both surpassed Wall Street's forecasts and its stock gained 4.1 per cent to $59.01.
CHINA TRADE: China's exports slipped in December, and exports to the U.S. fell 3.5 per cent as rising tariffs and broader weakness affected the world's second-largest economy. Negotiators from the U.S. and China met earlier this month for three days of trade talks, but it's not clear how much progress was made or when the two sides will meet again.
Apple lost 1.6 per cent to $149.91. The company's shares tumbled last month after it said sales in China were falling. Wynn Resorts, which has two of its three casinos in Macau, slumped 4.9 per cent to $107.98.
BREXIT: British lawmakers prepared to vote on Prime Minister Theresa May's deal covering Britain's planned departure from the European Union. All indications are that the deal will be rejected. The debate and vote could lead to volatility for U.K. markets, particularly the pound.
Some British legislators say the country should reconsider its decision to leave the bloc, possibly by another referendum. Others think that the country should depart on March 29 without a deal.
The FTSE 100 index fell 0.9 per cent and the pound rose to $1.2885 from $1.2845.
POWER LOSS: PG&E, the parent of Pacific Gas and Electric, said it will file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and its stock plunged 8 per cent to $9.14. It faces potentially colossal liabilities over deadly wildfires in 2017 and 2018 and had announced the resignation of CEO Geisha Williams on Sunday. The company says deliveries of natural gas and electricity shouldn't be affected.
PG&E's market value has dropped by $20 billion since November, when reports indicated PG&E had a power outage around the time and place the deadly Camp Fire began. That blaze killed at least 86 people and destroyed 15,000 homes.
Investors now value the company at $4.7 billion. Media reports say PG&E's liabilities could reach $30 billion.
ALL MINE: Newmont Mining will buy Canada's Goldcorp for $10 billion, creating the world's biggest gold miner. Miners are consolidating as gold becomes more expensive to procure. Barrick Gold said it would by Randgold for more than $6 billion four months ago. Goldcorp rallied 7.4 per cent to $10.41 while Newmont fell 8.6 per cent to $31.89.
EXTRA, EXTRA: Gannett, the publisher of USA Today, rocketed 22.8 per cent to $11.98 after a media group said it offered to buy the company for $1.36 billion. Gannett said will review the proposal from MNG Enterprises, better known as Digital First Media.
The Wall Street Journal was first to report that the hedge-fund backed MNG has built up a 7.5 per cent stake in Gannett, and that it has been rebuffed repeatedly by the company about a sale.
BONDS: Bond prices turned lower. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.71 per cent from 2.69 per cent.
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude oil gave up 0.7 per cent to $51.24 per barrel in New York, while Brent crude, the international standard, fell 1.1 per cent to $59.81 per barrel in London.
CURRENCIES: The dollar fell to 108.23 yen from 108.50 yen. The euro rose to $1.1470 from $1.1465.
OVERSEAS: Germany's DAX slid 0.3 per cent while the CAC 40 in France fell 0.4 per cent.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng index lost 1.4 per cent and the Kospi in South Korea declined 0.5 per cent.
Elaine Kurtenbach contributed to this story from Bangkok.