Stocks fall as economic malaise spreads to Japan

U.S. stocks fell Monday as evidence piled up that the global economic slowdown is dragging on Asia.

Japan’s economy grew in the second quarter at a 1.4 percent annual rate, slower than many analysts had expected. Last week, China released dismal figures on retail sales and exports in July. Traders had hoped Beijing would roll out stimulus measures over the weekend. That did not happen.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 32 points to 13,175 as of 3 p.m. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell two to 1,404. The Nasdaq composite index fell a point to 3,020.

The S&P 500 had risen for six straight days before Monday, its longest rally since December 2010. The S&P 500 and Dow have also risen every week for the past five weeks. The S&P 500 last wrapped up a five-week climb in mid-March. The Dow hasn’t done so since last October.

Slower growth in Asia worries investors because Asia’s economic endurance has helped offset weakness in the U.S. and Europe in recent years. Exports from China and Japan are declining as Europe’s economic woes hurt consumer confidence there.

“What’s happened is the law of gravity is starting to hit,” said Doug Cote, chief market strategist at ING Investment Management. Japan is volatile because it is still recovering from last year’s massive earthquake and tsunami, he said, and China’s growth is slowing sharply.

Yet stocks, bonds and most other investments are all up for the year, Cote noted. He said the markets have been “pricing in Armageddon when clearly things are much better than that.” Cote expects stocks to continue their upward trend as fears about the global economy dissipate.

Most Asian and European markets closed lower. Stocks edged higher in Spain. Traders speculate that the European Central Bank will take a more active role in fighting the region’s debt crisis by reducing borrowing costs for Spain, Italy and others.

Monetary authorities in the U.S. and China also are believed to be weighing plans to boost growth. Central banks have been hesitant so far to get involved with an economy that may be on the cusp of a rebound. They are mindful, however, of the effect that an achingly slow recovery has on businesses and consumers.

China revealed Friday that export growth in July plunged to just 1 percent from 11.3 percent as recently as the prior month. That was well below forecasts of about 5 percent.

The lack of global demand is trimming revenue for U.S. corporations. Many are cutting costs to limit declines in net income.

Investors had divergent reactions to two major asset sales by energy giant BP:

— Tesoro Corp. rose after saying it will pay $2.5 billion cash for a California refinery, pipelines, storage terminals and Arco-branded retail outlets in the Southwest. Tesoro’s stock jumped $3.33, or 9 percent, to $38.93. It was the biggest percentage gain in the S&P 500 index.

— Eagle Rock Energy Partners fell after agreeing to buy two BP gas processing plants in Texas for $227.5 million in cash. Its stock lost 25 cents, or 3 percent, to $8.71.

Among the other stocks making big moves Monday:

— Google rose after announcing that it would cut 20 percent of the staff at Motorola Mobility, the struggling mobile phone maker it acquired in May. Motorola hasn’t had a hit product since it introduced the Razr in 2005. Google’s shares added $16.98, or 3 percent, to $658.98.

— Sears Holdings Corp. shot up $2.67, or 5 percent, to $54.09. The department store chain announced plans to spin off its Hometown and Outlet stores and some hardware stores into a separate, public company.

China world markets

A woman walks past a screen showing the China Composite Stock Price Index at a brokerage house in Shenyang in northeast China’s Liaoning province Monday, Aug. 13, 2012. World stock markets fell Monday after a slowdown in Japan’s growth gave investors another reason to worry about the health of the global economy. (AP Photo)

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