Concerns that China will take steps to slow its economic expansion caused a dip in commodities and materials stocks on Wall Street.
China reported that its economy expanded by 10.3% in 2010, with economists expecting that China’s central bank will increase interest rates to slow down growth and keep inflation in check.
Demand from China has sent commodities prices surging over the past year.
“All investors and companies these days are clinging to this Chinese demand story,” said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at Harris Private Bank. “And anything that could cause that to falter could have ugly implications.”
Meanwhile, oil and copper fell more than 2%, with silver dropping 5%.
Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold dropped 4% even after the mining giant reported 60% higher income in the fourth quarter as a result of higher copper and gold prices. DuPont fell 1.6% and Dow Chemical was down 2.5%.
The decline in commodities was tempered by slightly better news on the US job market. The Labour Department reported that the number of people filing claims for unemployment benefits for the first time fell to 404,000 last week, below forecasts.
The better economic news pushed bond prices lower. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 3.43% from 3.34% on Wednesday night. Yields and prices move in opposite directions.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 2.49 points, or less than 0.1%, to 11,822.8.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 index lost 1.66, or 0.1%, to 1,280.26. The technology-focused Nasdaq composite index fell 21.07, or 0.8%, to 2,704.29. Materials stocks lost 1.5%, the most out of the 10 company groups which make up the S&P 500. Utility companies rose the most, 0.6%.