Stocks Open Modestly Lower on Chinese Data

U.S. stocks started lower on Friday, after data showed economic growth slowed more than expected in China. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lately shed 66.45 points, or 0.51%, to 12,920.13. The S&P 500 lost 7.08 points, or 0.51%, to 1,380.49. The Nasdaq Composite fell 16.94 points, or 0.55%, to 3,038.61.

China’s economy grew at its slowest pace in nearly three years and no signs of fresh stimulus are seen. The annual rate of GDP growth in the first quarter slowed to 8.1 percent from 8.9 percent in the previous three months, the National Bureau of Statistics said on Friday, below the 8.3 percent consensus forecast of economists polled by Reuters.

U.S. consumers paid more last month for food and gas. But outside those volatile categories inflation was mild. The consumer price index rose 0.3 percent in March, the Labor Department said Friday. That’s slower than February’s 0.4 percent rise.

JPMorgan Chase, which holds the most assets of any bank in the country, said Friday that it issued more mortgage loans in the first three months of the year and turned a bigger profit than Wall Street expected. The bank said it earned $5.4 billion for the first quarter, or $1.31 per share. Analysts were expecting $1.16 per share. Revenue and profit declined at most of JPMorgan’s businesses, including investment banking.

Google Inc. has announced plans to issue a new class of stock to existing shareholders, effectively splitting shares 2 to 1. It’s an unusual approach that reflects a desire by Google’s founders to preserve the company’s long-term interests.

Former Research In Motion co-chief executive Jim Balsillie sought to reinvent the BlackBerry smartphone maker with a radical shift in strategy before he stepped down, two sources with knowledge of his plans said. Balsillie hoped to allow major wireless companies in North America and Europe to provide service for non-BlackBerry devices routed through RIM’s proprietary network, a major break with the BlackBerry-only strategy pursued by RIM since its inception.

Oil prices fell to near $103 a barrel Friday. By early afternoon in Europe, benchmark oil for May delivery was down 37 cents to $103.27 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

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