US stocks make third quarter gains
on 28/09/2012 22:13:08
Stocks fell five days of the last six, including today, the last trading day of the quarter. But the big indices are still up 4% or more for three months, and are ahead 10% or more for the year.
That is despite all the anxiety about the euro, Iran and US politics.
Actually, those worries are exactly why stocks are up, said Uri Landesman, who runs the Platinum Partners hedge fund. He notes that investors around the world feel that US stocks look pretty good, compared to some of the alternatives.
"People are scared, and 2008 wasn't that long ago, and Europe remains a problem," he said. Those factors "are keeping the market up in the face of some really questionable economic data and questionable behaviour by the Fed."
Investors got some more of that iffy economic data today. The Commerce Department said consumer spending rose by 0.5% last month, compared to July. That was a big jump but it was not driven by spending on clothing, electronics and general merchandise. Consumer spending drives nearly 70% of economic activity.
The news pushed stocks lower. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 48.84 points to close at 13,437.13. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 6.48 points to 1,440.67. The Nasdaq composite index fell 20.37 points to 3,116.23. The losses had been steeper in the morning before stocks recovered somewhat around midday.
Stocks fell in all industry groups in the S&P 500 except utilities. Telecommunications and information technology stocks had the biggest losses.
Many investors worry that the recent gains by stocks are not justified, considering the risks of a confrontation with Iran, weak corporate profits, and Europe's troubles.
"People are wrestling with that disconnect, and trying to choose which chess pieces to move in anticipation" of whatever they think will happen next, said Lawrence Creatura, portfolio manager at Federated Investors.
"It's been a good quarter," he said, "but at least for the day we seem to be limping across the finish line."
Investors are still concerned about Spain's financial health. The Bank of Spain released an audit showing that seven of the country's banks failed stress tests. Moody's, the credit rating agency, is also expected to weigh in on Spain's creditworthiness, and there are concerns the government's rating will be cut to "junk" status.
Stocks in Europe fell. The CAC 40 in France fell 2.5%, the FTSE 100 in Britain was down 0.6%, and Germany's DAX fell 1%.
Stocks finished higher in Asia on continued speculation that China's central bank will act soon to help the world's number two economy.