Stocks Opened Lower on Concern Over Global Economy

U.S. stocks opened slightly lower on Wednesday, after reports from Europe and China fueled concern about the global economy. The Dow Jones industrial average lately was down 9.16 points, or 0.07 percent, at 12,956.53. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index dipped 2.34 points, or 0.17 percent, at 1,359.87. The Nasdaq Composite Index was off 5.98 points, or 0.20 percent, at 2,942.59.

Private-sector activity across the 17-nation euro zone contracted unexpectedly in February, according to the preliminary Markit purchasing managers index for the region released Wednesday. The index declined to 49.7 from 50.4 in January.

A closely watched gauge of Chinese factory activity rose to a four-month high in February but remained at levels that indicate modest contraction, while underlying data showed a weakening in new export orders. The initial “flash” estimate for HSBC’s February manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index rose to 49.7 on a 100-point scale, and up from a final reading of 48.8 the previous month, the banking group said Wednesday.

Excessive regulation of financial institutions is squeezing out middle-class consumers who soon will find themselves locked out of the banking system, analyst Meredith Whitney said Wednesday.

Unions say they are gearing up to spend more than $400 million to help re-elect President Barack Obama and lift Democrats this election year in a fight for labor’s survival.

Oil prices hovered above $106 a barrel Wednesday in Asia amid concern that conflict over Iran’s nuclear program could lead to global crude supply disruptions. Benchmark crude for April delivery was up 11 cents to $106.36 per barrel late afternoon Singapore time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Citigroup Inc (NYSE:C – News) and UBS AG (VTX:UBSN.VX – News), in a series of disclosures to law-enforcement officials, have provided crucial information to investigators in multiple countries as part of inquiries into whether the world’s biggest banks manipulated a global benchmark interest rate, according to people familiar the situation.






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