Stocks Opened Lower on Summit Skepticism

U.S. stocks opened sharply lower on Thursday, retreating after two days of gains, as investors were skeptical that the latest European Union summit would agree on concrete measures to tackle the region’s debt crisis.The Dow Jones Industrial Average lately fell 91.35 points, or 0.72%, to 12,535.66. The S&P 500 shed 7.59 points, or 0.57%, to 1,324.26. The Nasdaq Composite fell 21.18 points, or 0.74%, to 2,854.14.

With no breakthrough at an eve-of-summit meeting in Paris, the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, headed to Brussels for talks with European Union leaders Thursday more powerful, but also more isolated, than ever as the clamor grows for action to relieve pressure on struggling eurozone economies. Spanish 10-year bond yields poked briefly above 7 percent early Thursday, a level that even the country’s prime minister describes as unsustainable, and Italy paid sharply higher rates to sell long-term bonds — reminders of the renewed urgency of the crisis that this summit, the latest in a series stretching back two years, is supposed to make progress at resolving.

The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell last week, government data showed on Thursday, but remained too high to signal any major improvement in the labor market. Initial claims for state unemployment benefits fell 6,000 to a seasonally adjusted 386,000, the Labor Department said. The prior week’s figure was revised up to 392,000 from the previously reported 387,000.

U.S. consumer spending and export growth were not as robust as previously believed in the first quarter, suggesting less momentum in the economy. The Commerce Department confirmed on Thursday that the economy grew at a 1.9 percent annual pace in the January-March period, but the mix of growth was not encouraging for the current quarter.

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