The main US stock markets were heading south on Thursday afternoon, following most global markets lower after disappointing Chinese trade figures and as local data reinforced views that a rate hike is likely before the end of the year.
China’s trade surplus narrowed 20% in September on a larger-than-expected decline in exports, rekindling concerns about the condition of the world’s second-largest economy. In the US, 246,000 jobless claims were filed in the seven days through Oct. 8, on par with the downwardly revised number the prior week, according to the Department of Labor. The figure has been below the 300,000 mark for 84 straight weeks, the longest such streak since 1970.
Financial stocks led losses among the Standard & Poor’s 500 sectors, dropping 1.5% to be among seven of 11 declining groups. Utilities, a sector seen as a defensive play in times of uncertainty, rose 1.7%. On the Dow Jones Industrial Average, Wal-Mart Stores (WMT) led gainers, rising 1.5%, while Goldman Sachs (GS) posted the steepest decline, shedding 1.4%.
In company news, Wells Fargo (WFC) was off 1.6% after the beleaguered lender’s chief executive officer resigned late Wednesday. Ulta Beauty (ULTA) jumped 11% after raising its guidance due to a better-than-expected performance thus far in the third quarter.
DeVry Education Group (DV) added 1.5% after reaching a deal with the Department of Education over the use of a graduate employment statistic used by the school. And Xerox (XRX) fell 2.4% after the Wall Street Journal said its largest individual shareholder is suing to block the split of company into two by year end.
By mid-afternoon, the Nasdaq Composite was down 0.4% while the Dow and the S&P 500 were down off about 0.2%.
Globally, the Shanghai Composite rose 0.1%, the Nikkei 225 slipped 0.4%, the Hang Seng shed 1.6%, the FTSE 100 lost 0.7% and the CAC 40 retreated 1.1%.