U.S. STOCK MARKETS
U.S. stocks slumped, sending the Dow industrials toward a second straight triple-digit drop as outlooks from industrial, commodity and energy heavyweights added to concerns about a global economic slowdown.
Commodity prices posted a brief rally on Monday after a pro-austerity party got the most votes in Greece's weekend elections, but the market's upswing fizzled almost as soon as it began, confounding traders who might have expected developments to lift risky assets for at least a few of sessions.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average gave up 131 points, or 1%, to 13343 in late afternoon trading, a day after posting its biggest daily decline in nearly six weeks.
Alcoa fell 4.8%, leading the benchmark lower; late Tuesday, it cut its current-year global aluminum demand forecast because of slower Chinese growth.
The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index dropped nine points, or 0.6%, to 1433. Energy and materials shares led the declines. The Nasdaq Composite Index dropped 14 points, or 0.5%, to 3051.
Cummins fell 3.7% after the engine maker lowered its revenue and profit targets for the year, citing weaker demand in the North American commercial truck market and elsewhere. Fellow machinery maker Caterpillar also dropped.
Beyond earnings, the International Monetary Fund warned that if euro-zone governments fail to solve the debt crisis, the region's banks could be forced to sell as much as $4.5 trillion worth of assets, up from an earlier estimate of $3.8 trillion.
Fitch Ratings said Euro-zone members could suffer further credit downgrades, citing major risks that include the region's debt crisis and a slowdown in China.
Inventories at U.S. wholesalers rose in August at a pace that matched economists' forecasts, the Commerce Department reported, and didn't keep pace with a rebound in sales. Businesses will often stockpile goods if they expect demand to rise.
The Federal Reserve's "beige book" report of economic conditions noted the economy expanded "modestly" across most of the U.S. In other corporate news, Yum Brands climbed 8% after raising its profit forecast for the year and reporting a third-quarter profit that topped analysts' forecasts.
EUROPEAN STOCK MARKETS
European stock markets dropped Wednesday, as the International Monetary Fund issued a warning about the impact of the euro-zone debt crisis and as Greece's equity benchmark retreated.
The Stoxx Europe 600 index lost 0.6% to 268.71, although bank shares in London advanced on eased capital rules. Investors also trained their focus on the failure of a proposed merger in the defense-aerospace sector.
In the spotlight, shares of EADS NV traded up 5.3% in Paris, while BAE Systems PLC sank 1.4% in London, after talks over a $45 billion merger between the two defense firms broke down amid government opposition.
Away from London, banks posted some of Wednesday's biggest losses, as the IMF cast dark clouds over the sector's future. The fund warned that if European governments fail to solve the debt crisis, the region's banks could be forced to sell as much as $4.5 trillion of assets.
Shares of Spain's Banco Popular Espanol SA dropped 4.5% in Wednesday dealings, while Italy's Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena SpA lost 3.8%. In Madrid, the IBEX 35 index pulled back 1% to 7,668.00, while Milan's FTSE MIB index fell 0.4% to 15,440.63.
U.K. banks bucked the negative trend, rallying after a Financial Times report that the Financial Services Authority eased capital rules for banks in an effort to boost lending.
A representative from the regulator confirmed the report and said efforts to ease the U.K. rules had been under way for some time. Lloyds Banking Group PLC gained 4% and Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC added 2.1%, as Liberum Capital said those banks would benefit the most given their rapid deleveraging.
Elsewhere, the Athens General Index tanked 3.6% to 799.42 as Greece's main public- and private-sector labor unions called a 24-hour strike for Oct. 18 in protest of new austerity measures. Shares of SAP AG dropped 2% in Frankfurt, after Barclays cut the software company to a rating of equal weight from overweight previously.
The DAX 30 index closed 0.4% lower at 7,205.23. In London, the gains for banks weren't enough to push the main equities benchmark index into positive territory. The FTSE 100 index lost 0.6% to 5,776.71. And in Paris, the CAC 40 index fell 0.5% to 3,365.87. Compagnie de Saint-Gobain SA lost 2% after UBS cut its rating on the building-materials firm to neutral from buy.
ASIA-PACIFIC STOCK MARKETS
Asian markets were lower Wednesday amid growing worries over the global economic outlook, while automakers fell sharply in Tokyo as investors fretted over declining sales in China and tensions in Sino-Japanese relations.
Regional markets were tracking Tuesday's declines on Wall Street, where markets responded badly to the International Monetary Fund's downwardly revised global growth forecasts, which predicted the slowest global growth since the 2009 recession.
Tensions between China and Japan continued to attract attention, as the People's Bank of China Governor Zhou Xiaochuan said he would not attend the International Monetary Fund summit in Tokyo.
The Nikkei Stock Average fell 2% to 8596.23, a two-month low, after all three of the country's largest automakers Tuesday reported a sharp decline in Chinese sales in September, highlighting the business impact of the ongoing island dispute between China and Japan. Toyota Motor was down 1.9% and Honda Motor was 1.1% lower.
The performance of Japan-exposed Chinese car companies in Hong Kong was very different. Guangzhou Automobile Group and Dongfeng Motor Group, which both have joint ventures with Japanese carmakers, were up 4.5% and 4.9% respectively. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index fell 0.1% to 20919.60 and in Mainland China, the Shanghai Composite was 0.2% higher at 2119.94.
Industrial and Commercial Bank of China was up 1.5% in Hong Kong, after news Huijin Investment, an investment arm of China's sovereign wealth fund, increased its stake in the bank in the third quarter. Huijin also bought more Bank of China stock, which gained 1.4%.
Base metals on the London Metal Exchange closed moderately lower, with the exception of copper, amid technically driven trade, with no large shifts expected in the sessions ahead as LME Week next week approaches.
At the close of open-outcry trading, LME three-month copper was 0.2% higher on the day at $8,164.50 a metric ton. U.S. crude-oil futures fell Wednesday as traders looked to reports on the global oil market that suggest plentiful supplies and slumping demand growth.
Light, sweet crude oil for November delivery fell $1.14, or 1.2%, to settle at $91.25 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, after bouncing between gains and losses throughout the session.
Brent crude oil on the ICE futures exchange traded 11 cents lower at $114.39 a barrel. Platinum futures fell to the lowest point in more than one week as signs of easing tension in South Africa's precious metals industry limited concerns that supply from the major producer would see further disruptions.
The most actively traded platinum contract, for January delivery, fell $16.80, or 1%, to settle at $1,678.50 a troy ounce on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the lowest settlement since Sept. 28.
Gold rose slightly but held near unchanged, as traders weighed developments in Europe's banking crisis against the prospect of more economic stimulus. The most actively traded gold contract, for December delivery, rose 10 cents to settle at $1,765.10 a troy ounce on the Comex division of the Nymex. COMPILED FROM MORRISON SECURITIES PTY. LTD.
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