North American stocks were down slightly in midday trading on Friday, threatening a winning streak for U.S. stocks as investors digested a report showing very weak Chinese export growth in July.
At noon, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 18 points or less than 0.1 per cent, to 13,148. The broader S&P 500 – which has gained for five straight days – was down 2 points or 0.2 per cent, to 1401. In Canada, the S&P/TSX composite index was down just 1 point, to 11,857.
In Europe, stocks also retreated: The U.K.’s FTSE 100 fell 0.1 per cent and Germany’s DAX index fell 0.3 per cent.
The biggest drag on sentiment came from China, where the country reported that its exports grew just 1 per cent in July. That was down from 11.3 per cent growth in June and well off economists’ expectations for export growth of 8 per cent in July. Import growth also missed expectations.
Dismal economic reports have been driving hopes among investors that the world’s central banks will step in with stimulus measures. Yet, these hopes are being challenged as the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank have chosen to stay on the sidelines in recent monetary policy updates. As well, some observers believe that stimulus measures at this point could have relatively little impact on the global economy.
Within the S&P 500, economically sensitive areas showed the biggest declines. Financials fell 0.4 per cent, consumer discretionary stocks fell 0.3 per cent and energy stocks fell 0.2 per cent. Defensive areas, such as telecom stocks and health care stocks, showed modest gains.
Within Canada’s benchmark index, energy stocks fell 0.6 per cent, financials were flat and materials rose 0.5 per cent.