Stocks edged lower early Wednesday after investors saw signs that economies could be slowing down in both the West and China.
Procter & Gamble, the world's largest consumer products maker, predicted continued slow growth in developed markets and a slowdown in China. The company cut its estimates for fourth-quarter revenue and income. The stock dropped $2.46, almost 4 percent, to $59.75.
That made P&G the biggest decliner in the Dow Jones industrial average. The Dow edged down three points to 12,831 in early trading. The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost almost two points to 1,356. The Nasdaq composite index rose 1.4 points to 2,931.
The glum outlook came as the Federal Reserve wraps up a two-day meeting. Investors are hoping the Fed will either keep buying long-term bonds to keep rates low, or at least signal that it's ready to act if the economy sputters. The Fed will release a statement at 12:30 p.m. Eastern time Wednesday.
Some of the same weakness that is being addressed by the Fed has forced Procter & Gamble to reign in recent price increases as people cut back on spending.
Consumer spending accounts for about 70 percent of all economic activity in the U.S. With few companies hiring, the weak forecast from P&G was a worrisome sign that one of the country's most important economic engines may be weakening. P&G makes Tide detergent, Pampers diapers and Duracell batteries.
Next week, new figures on personal income and consumer sentiment will be released. The reports could signal more retrenchment by the U.S. consumer.
Actuant Corp., which makes industrial products, fell $2.02, or 7.4 percent to $25.43 after predicting "uneven end market demand, notably in Europe and China." The company predicted revenue for its current and next fiscal years will be less than analysts had been expecting.
Adobe Systems dropped $1.83 to $31.06, a loss of 6 percent. The software maker, whose products include Adobe Reader and Photoshop, issued a profit forecast late Tuesday that was weaker that analysts were expecting. Its income for the latest quarter fell 2 percent on higher expenses.
La-Z-Boy plunged 9.1 percent after its earnings per share came in far below what analysts were expecting. The stock lost $1.21 to $11.92.
- Investment & Company Information