NEW YORK - U.S. stocks are slightly lower in midday trading Monday after Asian markets sank again on fears about disruptions in emerging markets. Industrial stocks were among the few winners on Wall Street. Heavy-equipment maker Caterpillar rose sharply following a surge in earnings for the fourth quarter.
Major U.S. indexes gave up early gains
and turned slightly lower by midday. The Dow Jones industrial average was down
21 points, or 0.1 percent, at 15,851. The Standard & Poor's 500 index was
down eight points, or 0.5 percent, at 1,782. The Nasdaq composite was down 42
points, or 1 percent, to 4,086.
Small-company stocks fell more than
the rest of the market, a signal that investors were dumping assets seen as
risky. The Russell 2000 index gave up 14 points, or 1.3 percent, to 1,129.
Also, "defensive" stocks like power and phone companies rose.
Investors buy those stocks when they want to play it safe and collect a rich
Most major European stock markets were
lower. Germany's DAX fell 0.3 percent and France's CAC-40 declined 0.2 percent.
Spain's benchmark index fell 1 percent. In Asia, the Hang Seng in Hong Kong and
the Nikkei in Tokyo each fell more than 2 percent.
Investors were encouraged by a
recovery in Turkey's battered currency. The lira hit a record low of 2.39 per
dollar early Monday before recovering to 2.29 per dollar after the country's
central bank said it would hold an emergency policy meeting on Tuesday.
Other emerging market currencies
continued to weaken against the dollar. The South African rand fell another 0.5
percent to 11.15 per dollar, and Russia's ruble fell 0.7 percent to 34.74 per
dollar. A sharp drop in emerging market currencies last week set off a global
stock market decline as investors worried about a slowdown in China, which is a
major importer of commodities from other developing countries.
Sales of new homes in the U.S. slipped
in December for a second consecutive month, but sales for all of 2013 were
still the highest in five years. D.R. Horton and PulteGroup both fell,
reversing gains before the report came out. But NVR Inc. bucked the industry.
It surged $56.62, or nearly 6 percent, to $1064.98 after easily beating
analysts' projections for earnings.
Caterpillar was the biggest gainer in
the Dow, rising $4.65, or 5 percent, to $90.83 after the earth-moving equipment
maker reported fourth-quarter net income that easily beat analyst estimates.
Several companies will report results after the market closes, including Apple,
Zions Bancorp and Seagate Technology.
"Earnings numbers are coming in
good, but sales are weak and macroeconomic numbers are lower than expected -- new home sales, payroll, industrial production," said Steven Ricchiuto,
chief economist at Mizuho Securities. "We're overdue for a