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Friday, March 11, 2011


NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- U.S. stocks were little changed at Friday's open, as news of a massive earthquake and tsunami in Japan added to concerns over conflict in North Africa and the Middle East.
The Dow Jones industrial average (INDU) lost 23 points, or 0.2%, the S&P 500 (SPX) fell less than 1 point, and the Nasdaq Composite (COMP) dropped 4 points, or 0.1%.

He added that trading will be choppy as investors continue to digest headline risks, but stocks will likely approach the recent highs again soon.
"There's a lot of uncertainty we have to deal with, but markets have already given back about half the gains made this year," Goldman noted.
An 8.9-magnitude earthquake hit northern Japan on Friday, triggering tsunamis. The death toll was more than 59, according to the Kyodo News Agency.
The quake prompted the United States to issue tsunami warnings for Hawaii and the West Coast. Nineteen other countries also issued warnings. It was followed by powerful aftershocks that were felt in Tokyo.
Asian stocks, which had been falling before the quake struck, finished sharply lower with Japan's Nikkei falling 1.7%. European markets were under pressure in active trading.
The disaster in Japan came against a backdrop of worry about volatile political events, such as the ongoing civil war in Libya and planned anti-government protests in Saudi Arabia.
U.S. markets fell sharply Thursday, as economic data both domestically and abroad put a damper on investor sentiment.
World markets: European stocks stumbled in afternoon trading. Britain's FTSE 100 fell 0.4%, the DAX in Germany lost about 1% and France's CAC 40 dropped 0.8%.
Asian markets ended lower. The Shanghai Composite sank 0.8%, the Hang Seng in Hong Kong declined 1.5% and Japan's Nikkei tumbled 1.7%.
Companies: The Japanese disaster had an impact on stateside insurance companies such as Aflac (AFLFortune 500), which experienced a stock drop of 2%. Three-quarters of Aflac's revenue come from Japan.
Economy: Retail sales rose 1% in February, matching expectations from a consensus of economists surveyed by Briefing.com. Excluding automobile sales, retail sales rose 0.7%, only slightly higher than the projected increase of 0.6%.
The government revised its retail sales figures for January, to an increase of 0.7%, compared to the previously reported increase of 0.3%. Ex-auto sales rose 0.6% in January, compared to the previously reported increase of 0.3%.
Two economic reports are due out after the opening bell. The University of Michigan releases its March consumer sentiment survey at 9:55 a.m. ET, and the Commerce Department issues its January business inventories report shortly afterwards.
Economists, on average, are looking for the University of Michigan survey to come in at a reading of 76.5, down from 77.5 in February. Business inventories are expected to have risen 0.8%.
Currencies and commodities: The dollar rose against the euro and the British pound. But the greenback fell 1% against the Japanese yen.
Marc Chandler, chief foreign exchange strategist for Brown Brothers Harriman, said that Japanese investors were unwinding their surplus positions overseas, including selling off their dollars and buying up the yen.
"Japanese companies have to bring their money back home to rebuild," he said. "Insurance companies have to buy yen to make payments."
Oil for April delivery fell $2.81 to $99.89 a barrel
Gold futures for April delivery slipped $4.50 to $1,408.00 an ounce, recovering from an earlier slump.


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