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Stocks Slide on Spike in Wholesale Inflation

Traders are disappointed by a hotter-than-expected PPI report from the government. Investors also deal with earnings from the retail sector.
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Updated from 9:58 a.m. EDT

Stocks in New York were languishing in negative territory Tuesday as investors, still fretting about the turmoil in the financial sector, received another blow from a steeper-than-expected increase in wholesale-level inflation.


Dow Jones Industrial Average

was down 124 points at 11,355, and the

S&P 500

slipped 12 points to 1267. The


dropped 21 points to 2396.

Providing pressure to the major indices, the Bureau of Labor Statistics' producer price index showed a 1.2% increase for July, much more than the 0.6% expected by economists. The core rate jumped 0.7% for the month, also exceeding expectations of a 0.2% increase. Year over year, the core PPI increased 3.5%.

Doug Roberts, chief investment strategist for, said that if inflation were a true concern for the market, Treasury yields would be higher. He said the major concern is that the credit markets have a long way to go before resolving their problems.

"We're scraping along the bottom, but the interesting thing about this bottom is that it's going to be volatile," he said. "Every time you think the patient's stabilized, there's another organ failure."

In a separate report, the Census Bureau revealed that housing starts decreased 11% to an annual rate of 965,000 in July, a result that was slightly ahead of analyst forecasts. Building permits declined 17.7% to an annualized rate of 937,000.

"Every report is always how far they're off from a year ago. That doesn't tell you anything about whether they're getting better or worse," said Jim Paulsen, chief investment strategist for Wells Capital Management. "I think both are showing some bottoming patterns after full-fledged collapse during the last half of last year."

He pointed out that in the previous month housing permits and starts were both up, and are now basically the same as they were three to four months ago.

As for concerns over the impact of housing on the broader economy, Paulsen said that although the market has deteriorated significantly in the past two-and-a-half years, its problems have largely been contained. In a newsletter, he said that real demand remains above recessionary levels and that real GDP excluding housing and autos remains strong.

On the other hand, Roberts said that the market is pulling back from a substantial rally last week. He said investors remain concerned that the economy isn't getting better anytime soon, and the credit crisis remains a threat. "You can say that this situation may resolve itself, it's all been priced in, but you really don't know," he said.

On Monday, the major indices took a tumble after an article in


suggested that the government would need to bail out housing- and financial-sector lynchpins

Fannie Mae



Freddie Mac



Selling pressure in the sector continued Tuesday, as traders broadly shunned financial-services names.

Dow component


(AIG) - Get Free Report

was suffering after a Goldman Sachs analyst predicted the insurance company would need to raise fresh capital and faced additional downgrades, saying investors should not buy the stock. Other Dow members

Bank of America

(BAC) - Get Free Report


American Express

(AXP) - Get Free Report

were leading among the index's decliners.

Ahead of the new session,

The Wall Street Journal

reported that brokerage

Lehman Brothers


is looking to sell portions of its investment-management segment, including Neuberger Berman, to a several buyers.

JPMorgan added that, thanks to a continually deteriorating market, Lehman is due to write off another $4 billion in credit assets in the third quarter.

In a broader development concerning the financials, a former chief economist for the International Monetary Fund, Kenneth Rogoff, said he expects a large U.S. bank to go under in the coming months. Rogoff said that further consolidation among the financials will have to take place before the credit crisis abates.

Paulsen expressed skepticism about renewed jitters about the financials. "You're rehashing old fears, not creating new ones," he said. "I'm not sure this thing wasn't pretty much over in May, if you didn't have the oil spike, which renewed fears that the consumer's going to die," he said.

A report that indicates a more robust consumer could offer a substantial catalyst for the market, he said. "Are we in a position where that could happen? Absolutely."

A series of quarterly earnings reports weren't enough to encourage buying sentiment. Home-improvement retailer

Home Depot

(HD) - Get Free Report

announced a declining quarterly profit, but beat analysts' expectations and reaffirmed its guidance for the full year.

Fellow retailer


(TGT) - Get Free Report

reported a year-over-year decline in earnings, but beat estimates, while department-store operator



suffered a widening loss that was worse than Wall Street expected.

Medical-equipment maker


(MDT) - Get Free Report

, meanwhile, delivered income that improved year over year and exceeded expectations.

Several analyst actions were setting other individual names in motion. Goldman Sachs downgraded information-technology company

Affiliated Computer Services


to neutral from buy. Software-services provider

Automatic Data Processing

(ADP) - Get Free Report

also caught a Goldman downgrade to neutral. Both stocks were edging downward.

Meanwhile, Credit Suisse cut its price target on telephone company


(T) - Get Free Report

, but maintained a neutral rating on the stock.

Credit-card concern


(MA) - Get Free Report

, on the other hand, got a Goldman upgrade to buy on the heels of a recent decline in its share price. Shares were rising slightly.

In mergers and acquisitions, aerospace firm

General Dynamics

(GD) - Get Free Report

is set to buy Swiss company

Jet Aviation

for $2.25 billion.

Chicago commodities exchange owner

CME Group

(CME) - Get Free Report

succeeded in acquiring



as shareholders in the New York trading floor agreed to the purchase.

Bay Harbour Management

may be set to buy recently bankrupt clothing vendor

Steve & Barry's

, according to

The Wall Street Journal


Away from stocks, longer-dated U.S. Treasuries were declining in value. The 10-year note was shedding 6/32 to yield 3.83%. The 30-year was losing 16/32, yielding 4.47%. The dollar was weaker vs. the euro, yen and pound.

As for commodities, the price of crude oil was adding 9 cents to $112.96 a barrel. Gold was up $2.10 at $807.80 an ounce.

Global exchanges were broadly selling off. London's FTSE, Frankfurt's DAX, Japan's Nikkei and Hong Kong's Hang Seng were all trading lower.