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It seems the market is reluctant to start another week, as disappointing economic data from Asia and pessimism about the onset of earnings season sent shares downward. At market's close, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI ) had declined 0.28% while the S&P 500 (INDEX: ^GSPC ) similarly slumped 0.16%. Inflation in China skidded to a 29-month low, suggesting that the nation's torrential pace of growth may not be immune to slowing demand in Europe and the United States. Most estimates put China's GDP growth around 7% or 8%, significantly down from its recent clip of 10%. Slowing Chinese electricity demand even has Forbes columnist Gordon Chang warning that China is on a zero-growth trajectory.
China was not the only Asian economy announcing bad news, as machinery orders in Japan declined at a record pace in May. Not to be excluded, Europe added to global economic woes, with yields on Spanish and Italian bonds edging higher with Spanish notes gaining ever closer to that 7% benchmark widely considered unsustainable.
In the United States, pessimism carried over from last Friday's disappointing jobs report into the start of earnings season. Aluminum producer Alcoa (NYSE: AA ) , up 0.5% on the day, is set to lead off the series of announcements, a fitting choice given the company's especially bleak outlook in a dreary market. Jonathan Golub, chief strategist at UBS, bluntly admitted, "We expect the tone of the earnings season to be quite negative." Alcoa, scheduled to release Q2 earnings after market close today, is expected to announce an 84% fall in quarterly earnings to only $0.05 per share. Analysts have steadily lowered their projections as an oversupply of aluminum cut prices, and Alcoa's profits. JPMorgan Chase looms on deck, announcing the results of a miserable quarter of its own Friday morning. Looks like a fun week!
Online entertainment hub Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX ) continued to surge, although taking a slight break after shooting 13% and 6% on consecutive days late last week. Shares traded up 1.3% today. Oddly enough, CEO Reed Hastings caused much of Netflix's growth by announcing that viewers had surpassed 1 billion hours in June.
Coal company Alpha Natural Resources (NYSE: ANR ) was this edition's biggest loser on the S&P 500, plummeting 7.5% today. The emerging natural gas industry has driven Alpha Natural's shares down more than 60% so far in 2012, as declining natural gas prices induce coal users to convert their plants to natural gas. A recent rise in natural gas prices may halt this trend and revive demand for coal, but prospects for Alpha Natural look negative if the economy continues to warm up to natural gas.
With coal companies suffering and question marks looming about the future of natural gas, energy stocks may have investors worried. However, take advantage of a special report to learn about The Only Energy Stock You'll Ever Need. The report is completely free, so get your copy now.