Stocks Finish Lower on Stronger Dollar

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Stocks finished deep in the red Friday, as Greece's wobbly financial situation gave the dollar a lift against the euro.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 100 points, or 0.8%, to settle at 12,596. The S&P 500 was lower by 11 points, or 0.8%, at 1338, and the Nasdaq Composite was off by 35 points, or 1%, at 2828.

Although gross domestic product in the eurozone grew by a better-than-expected 0.8% in the first quarter of 2011, concerns that Greece's budget deficit will surpass the limit set under its bailout terms pressured the euro.

According to a European Commission statement quoted by Bloomberg, Greece's deficit is projected to be 9.5% of GDP in 2011, compared with the 7.4% target set by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. On May 16, eurozone finance ministers will meet to discuss additional options for Greece.

The euro fell 1% against the dollar and the dollar strengthened against a basket of currencies with the dollar index up 0.8%.

Earlier, the FTSE in London declined 0.3%, and the DAX in Frankfurt shed 0.6%. Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 0.9%, while Japan's Nikkei lost 0.7%.

Financial, conglomerate and basic material stocks bore the brunt of declines. Travelers ( TRV), JPMorgan Chase ( JPM), Bank of America ( BAC) and Caterpillar ( CAT) were the Dow's biggest laggards. McDonald's ( MCD) and Kraft Foods ( KFT) were the only components that settled in positive territory.

The Labor Department's consumer price index rose 0.4% in April , meeting expectations, after rising 0.5% in March. The core rate, which excludes volatile food and energy costs and is considered the closest gauge of inflation, gained 0.2%, coming in higher than the rise of 0.1% that economists had expected. In March, the core rate ticked 0.1% higher.

"The upward pressure in headline inflation will undoubtedly constrain consumption, particularly when coupled with reasonably weak wage growth," said Jim Baird, partner and chief investment strategist for Plante Moran Financial Advisors. "We still anticipate the economy to expand, but a continued slowdown appears possible and the upside for growth still appears likely to disappoint."

Michael Strauss, chief economist and chief investment strategist at Commonfund, was surprised that slightly stronger-than-expected readings on core CPI and PPI didn't have a bigger impact on the market.

"Core inflation is beginning to accelerate. Bernanke may be on the wrong side of this while some of the regional Fed presidents may be closer to the mark," Strauss said. "One of the challenges for the Fed is that they need to take the punch bowl away. Bernanke could be a little slow to do that, so I think the hawks are going to become more vocal."

Consumer sentiment unexpectedly strengthened in May as the University of Michigan's preliminary consumer sentiment reading jumped to 72.4 , from 69.8 in April. Economists had expected sentiment to weaken in May, to a reading of 69.5, according to Briefing.com.
Retail

Another big headline Friday was news that the government's Medicare and Social Security programs may face insolvency earlier than previously thought. Government officials said its new calculations project Medicare's Hospital Trust Insurance Fund will be depleted in 2024, or five years earlier than the prior estimate. Social Security is now expected to run out in 2036, or one year earlier than projected in 2010.

On the New York Stock Exchange, 732 million shares changed hands, and on the Nasdaq, 1.78 billion shares were traded. Only 19% of stocks that traded on the NYSE rose, while 81% fell.

Shares of Rambus ( RMBS) dropped 17.8% to close at $15.85 after a federal court ruled that the technology licensing company inappropriately destroyed documents related to patent cases.

Nvidia reported better-than-expected first-quarter earnings late Thursday but disappointed some investors with its outlook for the current quarter. The stock was shed 10.9% to $18.26.

Shares of Yahoo! ( YHOO) were lost 3.6% to $16.55 after the digital media company disclosed that it learned of the transfer of ownership of the third-party online payments business affiliated with Alibaba Group at the end of March, even though the transfer occurred back in August 2010.

Nordstrom ( JWN) saw its stock lose 3.2% to $47.62 after the upscale retailer cut its full-year outlook to between $2.80 and $2.95 a share from its previous forecast of $2.95 to $3.10 a share on costs related to its acquisition of Hautelook.

Shares of Dean Foods ( DF) rose 9.2% to $13.41 on an upgrade to buy at Goldman Sachs .

The June crude oil contract added 68 cents, or 0.7%, to settle at $99.65 a barrel. Gold for June delivery shed $13.20, or 0.9%, to settle at $1493.60 an ounce.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury rose 14/32, diluting the yield to 3.176%.

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--Written by Melinda Peer and Andrea Tse in New York.
Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors and reporters from holding positions in any individual stocks.