U.S. Stocks Open Lower On China, Yields Jitters

NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- U.S. stocks opened lower on Friday, as rising crude oil prices, a sell-off in Chinese shares overnight, and continued concerns about rising interest rates globally weighed on sentiment.

Investor focus, meanwhile, was also set on the Blackstone Group's initial public offering. Blackstone's offering raised $4.13 billion Friday by pricing at the top of its estimated range as the sixth richest IPO in U.S. history.

The private equity firm launched in 1985 with $400,000 on its books ballooned to a market value of more than $33 billion after pricing at the high side of its $29-$31 range.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 51 points at 13,497, as 26 of its 30 components opened in the red, led by the likes of Alcoa Inc. , Boeing Co. and Citigroup Inc. .

The S&P 500 index eased 4.8 points to 1,531, while the Nasdaq Composite 4.75 points to 1,961.

Trading volumes showed 101 million shares on the New York Stock Exchange and 147 million shares trading on the Nasdaq stock market. Declining issues topped gainers by 20 to 7 on the NYSE and by 15 to 8 on the Nasdaq.

Among leading tech shares, eBay Inc. gained 2.9%. According to the New York Times, it's planning to return to the Chinese auction market this summer.

U.S. stocks finished higher after a volatile session Thursday, as a drop in crude oil prices helped to offset concerns about rising bond yields and allowed the market to rebound from the previous session's stumble.

Expectations that global growth is fueling inflation and putting upward pressure on interest rates has capped the advance of stocks in recent weeks.

U.S. bond yields have risen above 5%, offering a risk-free alternative to stocks, while also lifting borrowing costs for consumers and businesses.

On Friday, the benchmark 10-year bond was down 4/32 at 94 19/32, lifting its yield to 5.206%.

Investors also remain weary that Chinese financial authorities will continue to announce tightening measures, possibly over the weekend, as they have in recent times.

Declines were seen in Asia and Europe, with the Shanghai Composite losing over 3% amid fears of an imminent rate hike.

Hedge fund woes

Investors were also monitoring jitters in the credit markets after the collapse of two Bear Stearns hedge funds which invested in subprime mortgages. Barclays on Friday said it has "some exposure" to such funds but that any loss it takes won't be material.

Bear Stearns, meanwhile, plans to take out $3.2 billion in loans to stop creditors from seizing assets of its money-losing hedge funds, Bloomberg News reported Friday, citing people with knowledge of the proposal.

Merrill Lynch already has seized $850 million of securities that Bear Stearns used as collateral, according to reports.

By Nick Godt