The Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI 0.41%) was trading 53 points lower, or 0.32%, by midafternoon as investors digested disappointing economic data out of China. China's General Administration of Customs announced a 18.1% decline in Chinese exports for February, compared to last year. According to Morningstar, the data also showed China had a $22.98 billion trade deficit for the month, compared to a $31.86 billion surplus in January. Worries over slowing economic growth in China has affected Caterpillar (CAT -1.11%) negatively today.
The heavy machinery manufacturer was trading 0.4% lower today. China's falling exports caused many commodities markets to decline -- including metals, which will hurt Caterpillar's business. Caterpillar has had a rough decline over the last year and the road to recovery might not come in 2014, especially if China's slowdown postpones a commodities comeback that would lead to better mining-equipment sales.
Boeing (BA -0.19%) is the Dow's biggest loser today, trading 1.7% lower after a couple of concerns hit the news feeds. The first was the weekend disappearance of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 carrying 239 people. Boeing has since insisted that the Boeing 777 is one of the safest planes on Earth.
"This is the best international plane ever built yet -- it's got an impeccable track record after 20 years and over 1,200 deliveries," said Richard Aboulafia, vice president for analysis with the Teal Group in Virginia, according to USA Today. "It's typically used on international routes, and it's established a new standard for international safety."
Another issue for Boeing was the discovery of hairline cracks on the wings of 42 Dreamliner 787 airplanes that were in production. No cracks were found in planes already delivered and the problem was rooted in the manufacturing process from one of its overseas suppliers. This is just the latest problem that could cause 787 delivery delays to customers. The Dreamliner is a serious part of Boeing's business and will continue to drag margins lower while the program remains unprofitable due to delays and budget overruns.
Outside of the Dow, Ford (F 0.79%) continues to post great progress in the U.K.. The automaker said February car sales in the market were up 3%, but its lead over the nearest rival in total sales has grown by more than 80% this year, compared to the same period in 2013. Ford's retail car sales market share grew to 15.3%, 160 basis points higher than February 2012.
"Ford's fast sales start to 2014 is solidly based on growth in the more profitable retail and net fleet sectors and is a result of our continued investment in exciting products and industry-leading technologies, delivered through the strongest dealer network in the UK," said Mark Ovenden, Ford Britain chairman and managing director, in a press release.
This is good news for Ford investors as Europe continues to drag company profitability lower. The turnaround story is finally taking place; once the company breaks even in the region, as it is expected by mid-decade, it will be a strong boost to Ford's bottom line.