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Stocks Move Modestly Lower In Early Trading - U.S. Commentary

Stocks are seeing modest weakness in early trading on Monday, giving back some ground after moving sharply higher in the first quarter. The major averages have all moved to the downside, although selling pressure remains relatively subdued.

The major averages have edged up off their lows for the young session but currently remain in the red. The Dow is down 37.35 points or 0.3 percent at 13,174.69, the Nasdaq is down 6.91 points or 0.2 percent at 3,084.66 and the S&P 500 is down 1.51 points or 0.1 percent at 1,406.96.

The early weakness on Wall Street is partly due to some disappointing European economic data, with a report from Markit Economics showing a continued contraction in eurozone manufacturing activity.

Markit said its purchasing managers index fell to 47.7 in March from 49.0 in February, with a reading below 50 indicating a contraction. The latest number was in line with a preliminary reading.

A separate report released by Eurostat showed that the unemployment rate in the eurozone rose to a record high of 10.8 percent in February.

Shortly, trading could be impacted by the release of some U.S. economic data, including a report from the Institute for Supply Management on activity in the U.S. manufacturing sector.

Economists expect the ISM's index of activity in the manufacturing sector to edge up to 53.0 in March from 52.4 in February, indicating a modest acceleration in the pace of growth in the sector.

While housing and biotechnology stocks have come under pressure in early trading, most of the major sectors are showing only modest moves.

Among individual stocks, shares of Groupon (GRPN) are down by 11.4 percent after the company announced a downward revision to its fourth quarter results due to an increase to its refund reserve accrual. At the same time, the company reaffirmed its first quarter guidance.

Meanwhile, Avon Products (AVP) is up by 19.9 percent after the beauty products company said it has rejected an unsolicited takeover offer from Coty Inc. The offer valued Avon at $23.25 per share, a 20 percent premium to its closing price on Friday.

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region turned in a mixed performance on Monday. Japan's Nikkei 225 Index ended the day up by 0.3 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index edged down by 0.2 percent.

The major European markets have also turned mixed over the course of the trading day. While the French CAC 40 Index is down by 0.3 percent, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index is up by 0.6 percent and the German DAX Index is up by 0.1 percent.

In the bond market, treasuries have moved moderately higher on the weak European economic data. As a result, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, is down by 3.4 basis points at 2.182 percent.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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