The stock market opened Friday morning on a down note as investors responded to better employment numbers than expected by discounting the chance that the Federal Reserve will become more accommodative in its monetary policy soon. As of 11 a.m. EDT, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) was down 204 points to 26,762. The S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) dropped 25 points to 2,970, and the Nasdaq Composite (NASDAQINDEX:^IXIC) was lower by 72 points to 8,099.
Despite the strength of the U.S. economy, many companies both here and abroad are facing difficulty with the pace of growth in foreign markets. Ford Motor (NYSE:F) announced its latest numbers from the Chinese automotive market, signaling headwinds that are consistent with what we've seen elsewhere in the Middle Kingdom. Meanwhile, Samsung (OTC:SSNLF) warned that it would likely see sharply lower profits in the second quarter than it did a year ago, and the global semiconductor industry has proven to be especially sensitive to the trade disputes involving countries in the Asia-Pacific region.
China slams on Ford's brakes
Shares of Ford Motor were down a fraction of a percent Friday after the automaker released its latest sales figures from China for the second quarter. Ford said that it sold just over 154,000 vehicles during the quarter, down almost 22% from the year-ago period.
The news comes in spite of the efforts that Ford has made over the past several months to try to improve its China division's performance. In early April, the automaker announced what it called Ford China 2.0, with a set of strategic moves that included building a new leadership team with the background to understand the Chinese auto market, working hard to bolster relations with its joint venture partners, offering more support to its dealer network in China, and generally fighting against obstacles to its success.
Even with the sales decline, the automaker pointed to some early successes. Reduction in dealer inventory has pushed supplies down to just 28 days at dealerships, its lowest level over the past year and a half. In addition, a coming change in emission standards led to significant boosts in demand for vehicles before the deadline. Moreover, the numbers were far better than what Ford China saw in the first quarter, with Ford-branded vehicle sales climbing 24% and Lincoln seeing 28% gains compared to results from three months ago.
Ford shares have performed well even with its challenges in China, in large part because of a strong U.S. market and successful efforts to restructure its international business in Europe and South America. If the automaker can figure out its China segment, then that could give Ford shareholders yet another reason to celebrate.
Tough times chip away at Samsung
Shares of Samsung Electronics fell almost 1% Friday in trading in Seoul after the maker of smartphones and semiconductor chips gave its preliminary financial results for the second quarter. The company said that operating profit for the period was down an estimated 56% to $5.6 billion for the period, with revenue falling more than 4% year over year.
Those numbers were actually better than many had projected, but they were also boosted by some extraordinary items. Particularly noteworthy was a reimbursement of almost $700 million from Apple for display panels that Samsung had sold to the iPhone maker.
More broadly, though, Samsung is seeing the same pressure much of the chip industry faces. U.S. trade sanctions on China's Huawei are having a particularly big impact on the South Korean giant because of its close relationship with Huawei. An overall supply glut for memory chips and Japanese export restrictions on the materials that go into chip manufacturing are also weighing on Samsung.
Samsung isn't the only chip giant dealing with problems, but it's been a powerhouse in the industry. If it can't navigate tough conditions successfully, then that bodes poorly for other stocks in the sector.