“NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stocks headed for a sharply lower open Tuesday after a steeper-than-expected jump in wholesale inflation raised fresh concerns about the drag rising prices are having on the economy.
The Labor Department’s Producer Price Index showed inflation pressures faced by companies increased in July at more than double the expected rate, rising 1.2 percent. Wall Street forecast a 0.5 percent increase, according to Thomson/IFR.
The increase means prices have risen in the past 12 months at the fastest pace in 27 years and follows figures released last week showing consumers are also facing rising inflation.
A Commerce Department report on July housing starts, meanwhile, showed that construction of homes and apartments fell to the lowest level in more than 17 years. Starts fell to an annual rate of 965,000 units for July; the figure was higher than the rate of 950,000 units analysts had predicted on average but didn’t appear strong enough to quell investors’ worries about the sector.
The weakness in housing has not only imperiled home builders and suppliers but has left financial companies reeling over how to cope with soured mortgage debt.
Following the reports, Dow Jones industrial average futures fell 106, or 0.92 percent, to 11,393. Standard & Poor’s 500 index futures declined 12.50, or 0.97 percent, to 1,269.80, while Nasdaq 100 index futures fell 16.25, or 0.84 percent, to 1,927.25. Futures weakened after the reports.
Bond prices were down after the economic reports. While investors ordinarily seek the shelter of government debt when bad news arrives, inflation is just as bad for bonds as stocks because it can eat into the more modest returns Treasurys usually show. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its price, rose to 3.83 percent from 3.82 percent late Monday. The dollar was mixed against other major currencies, while gold prices fell.
The latest readings don’t reflect all of the pullback in oil seen since mid-July. Oil is down more than $30 a barrel since its July 11 peak of $147.27. Light, sweet crude fell 51 cents to $112.36 a barrel in premarket electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Retailers reported mixed quarterly results, adding to investors’ uncertainty about the economy.
Home Depot Inc. reported a 24 percent decline in its second-quarter earnings but topped Wall Street’s expectations. The nation’s largest home improvement retailer reiterated its forecast for the year amid a weak housing market.
Target Corp. said its second-quarter earnings fell 7.5 percent but topped Wall Street’s expectations despite continued weak sales amid a challenging economy.
Saks Inc. is reporting a wider-than-expected loss in the second quarter as its affluent shoppers cut back on apparel amid a slowing economy. The luxury goods retailer also issued a downbeat forecast for the year.”
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