Stocks, commodities fall on China data

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Stocks are lower today as weak economic data from China triggers a selloff in commodity prices.

S&P 500 futures are down by about 0.5 percent but have trimmed their losses in the last 30 minutes. European indexes are down by more than 1 percent. Most Asian bourses shed 1 percent to 2 percent overnight, but the real move is in metals and commodities. Copper fell 3 percent, gold is down 6 percent, and silver is plunging 10 percent.

China reported that gross domestic product grew just 7.7 percent in the first quarter, lagging consensus estimates for an 8 percent expansion. Industrial production led the miss, triggering worries about weak demand for materials.

The news comes after the S&P 500 touched a record high on Thursday and as investors prepare for the onset of corporate-earnings season. While equity prices have been soaring in the United States and Japan, emerging markets have remained weak and European indexes have been edging lower in the last month. Transports and small caps, which led the market earlier in the year, have also failed to make new highs since mid-March.

Today's big earnings announcement comes from Citigroup, which is up about 2 percent after beating expectations. The New York Federal Reserve will also issue its regional manufacturing report, and the National Association of Homebuilders will release its monthly sentiment index for the industry. Tomorrow brings quarterly reports from Goldman Sachs, Johnson & Johnson, Coca Cola, Yahoo, and Intel, plus the key German Zew economic survey.

Currencies associated with global growth and commodities are taking a beating. The Australian dollar and Canadian dollar are both lower by more than half a percent against the greenback. The euro is also falling while the safe-haven Japanese yen is up across the board.

In addition to the pain in metals, crude oil is down by about 2 percent and agricultural products are broadly lower.

Despite the bad macro news, some companies are gaining before the opening bell amid takeover reports. Sprint Nextel is indicated higher by 15 percent after Dish Network offered $25.5 billion for the wireless carrier. Life Technologies also accepted a $13.6 billion takeover by Thermo Fisher Scientific, and is up more than 8 percent.


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