Futures slide on troubling news from Europe

AP News
Posted: Feb 14, 2013 9:00 AM
Futures slide on troubling news from Europe

NEW YORK (AP) — A troubling economic retreat in Europe and Asia weighed on futures Thursday and overshadowed a flurry of corporate activity in the U.S. and better-than-expected news on jobs.

Dow Jones industrial futures slid 33 points to 13,925. The broader S&P futures lost 2.10 points to hit 1,515.10. Nasdaq fell 6.25 points to 2,764.

One of the bright spots for the U.S. economy has been growing exports, with trade flows of about $2.7 billion a day in Europe alone.

On Thursday, data from the European Union showed an unexpectedly large contraction during the final quarter for the Germany economy, the continent's financial powerhouse.

The economy of the entire EU shrank by 0.6 percent, more than the 0.4 percent drop economists had expected.

Japan said Thursday that its economy shrank for the third consecutive quarter, and like in Europe, the 0.4 percent contraction was worse than expected.

Many economists had actually expected the country to emerge from recession in the final quarter of the year.

The latest data will give leaders in Japan even greater determination in driving down the value of the yen, which has led to concerns of an evolving currency fight.

Developments in Europe and Asia occurred on a day of heightened activity from the likes of Warren Buffett and the airline sector.

American Airlines and US Airways have agreed to merge in an $11 billion deal that would create the world's biggest airline.

Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway and 3G Capital announced a $23 billion acquisition of the iconic U.S. brand, H.J. Heinz Co.

Also on Thursday, the Labor Department said that 27,000 fewer people sought unemployment benefits last week. Applications dropped to a seasonally adjusted 341,000, the lowest level in three weeks.

Though the four-week average, a less volatile measure, rose to 352,500, after reaching a five-year low two weeks ago, trends suggest that hiring could improve.

The unemployment rate ticked up to 7.9 percent last month. With economists expecting benefit applications to drop by only 6,000 last week, there is room for optimism at home, if not overseas.