Stocks down on discouraging news from Asia

Associated Press
FILE - In this Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, file photo, trader Gregory Rowe, center, works at the post of specialist Joseph Mastrolia, left, on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. The mood in financial markets steadied Monday, March 10, 2014, despite earlier big losses in Asia following disappointing Chinese and Japanese economic data. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)
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FILE - In this Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, file photo, trader Gregory Rowe, center, works at the post of specialist Joseph Mastrolia, left, on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. The mood in financial markets steadied Monday, March 10, 2014, despite earlier big losses in Asia following disappointing Chinese and Japanese economic data. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

A dash of discouraging economic news from China and Japan put a damper on the U.S. stock market Monday, adding to concerns that global growth could be slowing.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell six points, or 0.4 percent, to 1,871 at 12:13 p.m. Eastern Time. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 84 points, or 0.5 percent, to 16,368. The Nasdaq composite lost 13 points, or 0.3 percent, to 4,323.

CHINA WORRIES: China's exports slumped 18 percent in February, reinforcing fears about the outlook for the world's second-largest economy after the United States. China's official 2014 economic growth target of 7.5 percent, announced last week by Premier Li Keqiang, assumes trade also will grow by 7.5 percent. But customs data show combined imports and exports so far this year have shrunk by 4.8 percent.

THE QUOTE: "The driver this morning has been the economic numbers coming out of China. Their trade numbers were quite disappointing and that's driving the market lower," said David Chalupnik, head of equities for Nuveen Asset Management.

JAPAN TOO: Meanwhile, Japan, the world's third-largest economy, reported a record current account deficit for January and lowered its economic growth estimate for the October-December quarter to 0.7 percent from 1 percent.

IN THE RED: The downbeat economic report from China was hurting several industry sectors heavily reliant on Chinese economic growth, in particular: materials, energy and industrials, which led the decline in nine of the 10 sectors of the S&P 500 index. Mining company Cliffs Natural Resources was the biggest decliner among S&P 500 companies, shedding 89 cents, or 4.8 percent to $17.76.

TOP BANANA: Chiquita agreed to combine with Dublin-based Fyffes to become the world's top banana company. The stock-for-stock transaction announced Monday creates a global banana and fresh produce company with $4.6 billion in annual revenues. Chiquita rose $1.30, or 12 percent, to $12.15.

SEPARATE WAYS: Chemical company FMC plans to separate into two publicly traded companies. The "New FMC" will include the agricultural and health and nutrition businesses, while "FMC Minerals" will include the current minerals segment that houses the alkali chemicals and lithium businesses. FMC rose $4.15, or 5.39 percent, to $82.03.

FROZEN ARCHES: McDonald's was unchanged at $95.50. The company said that a key sales metric dropped 1.4 percent in the U.S. last month, which McDonald's attributed to severe winter weather. The world's largest hamburger chain was also hindered by difficult winter weather conditions in January.

BIG RISER: Alexion Pharmaceuticals paced the gainers in the S&P 500 index, climbing $11.17, or 6.7 percent, to $179.40. The company raised its 2014 earnings forecast, saying the national health agency of France will reimburse it for past sales of its drug Soliris.

EUROPE: The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was barely changed. Germany's DAX fell 0.3 percent. The CAC-40 in France edged up 0.5 percent.

ASIAN MARKETS: Earlier in Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 closed down 1 percent and China's Shanghai Composite plunged 2.9 percent. Hong Kong's Hang Seng dropped 1.8 percent. A notable mover was Malaysia Airlines, which fell sharply following the disappearance of one its jets en route to Beijing.

BOND WATCH: The yield on the 10-year Treasury note slipped to 2.78 percent from 2.79 percent as investors moved money into bonds. The yield, which affects rates on mortgages and other consumer loans, has been rising steadily this month from a low of 2.60 percent on March 3.

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