Weakness in China Hurts U.S. Markets

In our interconnected world, the announcement that China's exports fell 18.1% in February was all it took this morning to put downward pressure on the major U.S. indexes. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) lost 34 points on the day, or 0.21%, while the S&P 500 fell 0.05%. The Nasdaq was unchanged.

Within the Dow, shares of AT&T (NYSE: T  ) closed down 0.09%, after falling as much as 1.07% during the day. Investors were probably reacting to the news that AT&T is cutting its Shared Value Plan price from $80 to $65 per month for current customers who are no longer under a two year agreement and sign up for the new plan, or for new customers who pay full price for a phone. But as my colleague Travis Hoium explained earlier today, AT&T is essentially just changing the way it collects money from customers. I don't think shareholders have much to worry about from this move.  

Outside the Dow, shares of Bed Bath & Beyond (NASDAQ: BBBY  ) rose 0.43%, despite Friday's announcement of reduced earnings expectations. Blaming the weather, management cut its forecast from a range of $1.60 to $1.67 per share down to a range of $1.57 to $1.61. The company also sees revenue for stores open at least a year rising only 1.7% for the quarter, down from the previous estimate of 2% to 4%. Credit Suisse said earnings would have been in line with guidance if not for the weather, backing up management's assertions. Sometimes, things are just out of your control.

A big winner on the market today was Chiquita Brands (NYSE: CQB  ) . Shares rose 10.7% this afternoon after the company announced a merger agreement with Dublin-based Fyffes. The new company will surpass Dole to become the world's largest banana company. The companies characterize the merger as a "strategy of survival," as big discount-driven retailers have put pressure on margins. The merger is likely to help for now, but as a way to survive it doesn't seem like the best long-term strategy. If trouble strikes again, there's really nowhere else to go: The new ChiquitaFyffes and Dole together will control more than half of the world's banana market.  

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