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MARKET SNAPSHOT: U.S. Stocks Drop On Economic Malaise, Off For Week

By Jonathan Cheng U.S. stocks declined Friday on light summer trading volumes, sending the Dow Jones Industrial Average to its second consecutive week of losses as concerns about economic growth weighed on investor sentiment. The blue-chip index lost 57.59 points, or 0.56%, to finish at 10213.62, putting it in negative territory for the week, month and year. The Dow (DJI) has lost 2.1% for the year. The Nasdaq Composite Index (RIXF) rose less than one point to 2179.76 while the S&P 500 Index (SPX) slipped 3.94 points to 1,071.69. A fall in the euro (CUR_EURUSD) on Friday reminded investors of lingering sovereign-debt concerns and added to the week's push-and-pull between encouraging corporate news and weaker-than-expected economic data. A resurgence in deal activity to the highest levels since late 2009 contrasted with persistent reminders of the struggling global economic recovery. "There's been the realization that the economy in the second half of this year -- and therefore corporate profits -- are going to be more modest than where a lot of people thought they would be six months ago," said Adrian Cronje, partner and chief investment officer at Balentine. Some investors remained optimistic, arguing that the market had focused too much on short-term jobs numbers. "We bounced back from the worst recession we've seen in modern history," said Roy Williams, chief executive of Prestige Wealth Management. He says he expects the numbers to show a pickup in jobs and retail spending, though he allowed that volatility would be a mainstay through the fall. Leading the Dow's decline Friday, Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPQ) dropped 2.2%. The technology giant's profit climbed 6.1% on higher world-wide sales in its fiscal third-quarter, its final quarter with Mark Hurd at its helm. But investors have been skittish about H-P since Hurd left the company two weeks ago. Components with significant overseas exposure weakened after the euro touched a one-month low following a European Central Bank official's suggestion that monetary policy should remain loose until next year. Caterpillar Inc. (CAT) shares fell 0.6%, General Electric Co. (GE) shed 1.4% and manufacturing giant 3M Co. (MMM) slid 1.4%. Energy stocks led the S&P 500's declines, as crude-oil prices fell 1.3% to below $74 a barrel. Sterne Agee & Leach cut its stock-investment ratings on land drillers to "neutral" from "buy," citing rising service costs, among other factors. Nabors Industries Ltd. (NBR) fell 3.9%, while Patterson-UTI Energy (PTEN) fell 3.1% and Helmerich & Payne Inc. (HP) slid 2.9%. In the currency markets, the euro fell to $1.2705 from $1.2819 late Thursday in New York. The U.S. Dollar Index (DXY), which tracks the currency against a basket of six others, jumped 0.8%. Demand for safe-haven Treasurys fell, pushing yield on the 10-year note (UST10Y) down to 2.62%. The two-year note's yield (UST2YR) hit a record low of 0.455% overnight, but edged up in recent trading to 0.495%. "We're in this mediocre and low-growth path until another year or so goes by. To me, that's what this week says again," Barbara Marcin, portfolio manager of the Gabelli Blue Chip Value Fund, said and noted that industrial production has yet to reclaim its pre-recessionary level. "We're not back to the levels we were a couple years ago and therefore people aren't going to hire, and until we get some employment growth back, we're not going to restore confidence." Light trading in August has kept the market bouncing in a narrow range, with about 3.8 billion shares trading hands in New York Stock Exchange Composite volume, below the daily average of 5.1 billion. Among stocks in focus, ScanSource (SCSC) rose 4.8% after its fiscal fourth-quarter profit rose 12% on strong revenue growth. The distributor of security devices sold to an increasing number of customers and saw a resurgence of big deals, which more than offset falling margins.

Stock News for Nabors (NBR)
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