Dow back in the red for the year
Another down day on Wall Street as mixed inflation report, overseas selloff spook investors; oil, gold tumble.
By Steve Hargreaves and David Ellis, staff writers

NEW YORK ( - The Dow Jones industrial average sank into the red for the year Tuesday as concerns about rising inflation and slowing economic growth overshadowed tumbling commodity prices and some rosy corporate news.

The 30-share Dow (down 86.44 to 10,706.14, Charts) tumbled 0.8 percent, its seventh loss in the last eight sessions, leaving the world's most widely watched stock market gauge off 936 points, or 8 percent, from its May high, and down 0.1 percent for the year.

More market news:
The Nasdaq is down in 2006 even though the broader market is still sitting on yearly gains. Here's why. (more)
Soon this sell binge will be over. In the meantime take a deep breath and look at India. (more)
As money flees overpriced investments, it should flow to big growth stocks that are still undervalued. (more)

The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index (down 12.71 to 1,223.69, Charts) sank just over 1 percent, leaving it down 2 percent in 2006.

The Nasdaq composite (down 18.85 to 2,072.47, Charts) slid 0.9 percent, the tech-laden index's eighth straight decline, putting it down 6 percent year-to-date and 12.6 percent below its April high, constituting what on Wall Street is known as a "correction."

A correction is a drop of more than 10 percent while a 20 percent decline is widely seen as a bear market.

All three indexes zigzagged throughout the session.

Elsewhere, gold tumbled below $600 and oil sank under $70 - events that would normally encourage stock investors. Treasury bonds and the dollar advanced.

Traders will now focus on Wednesday's long awaited inflation gauge: the Consumer Price Index.

They'll hope it will come in tame, easing fears that rising prices and interest rates will hurt economic growth, and corporate profits.

"It going to be very important," said Todd Clark, director of stock trading at Nollenberger Capital Partners in San Francisco, adding that any rally on a mild number "may be short and quick."

Despite the drop in oil and gold, inflation fears and the likelihood of at least one more Federal Reserve rate hike are still spooking investors, said John Lonski, chief economist for Moody's.

"There's still reason to worry until we have more convincing evidence of peaking of inflation risks that will allow the Fed to halt its current series of rate hikes," he said.

The Fed is set to meet later this month, with many investors now expecting another quarter-point rise in its key short-term rate target, which would be the 17th straight increase by the central bank.

Reading the tea leaves

In economic news, the Producer Price Index, a measure of prices paid at the wholesale level, rose 0.2 percent in May after a 0.9 percent rise in April.

But the so-called core PPI, which strips out often volatile food and energy prices, rose 0.3 percent, following a 0.1 percent gain in April. Economists had forecast a 0.2 percent in the more closely watched core reading. (Full story).

And sales at U.S. retail stores rose 0.1 percent in May, as expected, as strong gasoline sales outweighed declines in car, furniture and building material sales, government data showed Tuesday, after a 0.5 percent rise in April. (Full story)

The combination of a higher core PPI reading and sluggish retail sales was cause for concern for some investors.

"We're bracing for an increase in inflation and slower economic growth," said Clark at Nollenberger Capital Partners. "That's bad for equities."

But another said the steep decline in commodity markets and stocks overseas was partly from inexperienced investors who were chasing risky investments getting spooked by inflation - and bailing.

"The fundamentals are not as bad as the market is acting," said Jim Awad, Chairman of Awad Asset Management. "We're building towards an important buying time in the next few weeks."

Investors were hoping for a weak PPI report that might signal an end to the Fed's interest rate hiking campaign, although Tuesday's PPI number probably won't push the Fed in that direction. (More on inflation).

A number of Fed officials have said in recent days that they're concerned about inflation, and uncertainty over how the Fed will raise rates has fed the global market sell-off.

Major markets tumbled in Asia, with Japan's Nikkei posting its biggest one-day decline in two years. Rate hike fears also battered major European markets, which closed at their lowest in 6-1/2 months.

Commodities crushed

Oil tumbled Monday on news that Tropical Storm Alberto, the first name storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, looked like it would spare Gulf Coast oil facilities.

U.S. light crude for July delivery settled down $1.80 at $68.56 on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

COMEX gold for August delivery tumbled below $44.30 to $567 an ounce.

Treasury prices rose, lowering the 10-year yield to about 4.96 percent.

The dollar rallied further against the yen and the euro on expectations that U.S. rates have further to rise.

On the move

In corporate news, investment bank Goldman Sachs (down $5.75 to $139.25, Research) reported earnings more than doubled, topping forecasts, but the stock sank nearly 4 percent as investors feared that the industry may not be able to sustain its recent performance.

Best Buy beat earnings projections for the first quarter and its shares (up $2.66 to $51.69, Research) jumped over 5 percent.

Qualcomm (up $0.65 to $41.84, Research) gained over 1 percent after the wireless technology company raised its guidance, citing strong demand for its chips.

Luxembourg-based Tenaris (up $1.03 to $32.53, Research) agreed to acquire Maverick Tube (up $16.99 to $62.65, Research), a fellow maker of tube products for the energy industry, for $2.4 billion, about a 42 percent premium for Maverick. Maverick's shares were up almost 38 percent in early afternoon trade.

Market breadth was negative. On the New York Stock Exchange, decliners beat advancers by a margin of just over two to one on volume of 2.3 billion shares. On the Nasdaq, losers topped winners by a margin of two to one as 2.54 billion shares changed hands.


Related: What the Fed will know, and you won't, about inflation

Plus: Can Best Buy get geekier? Top of page

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