Stocks Fall On Disappointing Data, Amazon/Whole Foods Deal

The major averages are showing modest losses after the first hour of trading on Friday. The decline adds to weakness seen during the previous session, dragged down by a negative report about the housing market. Meanwhile, results of a new survey showed that consumer sentiment has fallen to its lowest level of 2017.

Along with the economic news, investors are digesting a surprising merger announcement. Online retailer Amazon (AMZN) has agreed to purchase Whole Foods (WFM) in a $13.7 billion deal.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down nearly 32 points, or 0.2 percent, to 21,327. The S&P 500 is lower by 7 points, or 0.3 percent, to 2,426. The Nasdaq is leading the retreat, falling 27 points, or 0.4 percent, to reach 6,139.

The early slide extends the lackluster performance stocks have seen recently. A mixed performance on Wednesday was followed by a modest retreat on Thursday.

Added weakness came Friday morning following the release of a government report showing a steep drop in housing starts for May. The U.S. Commerce Department said housing starts slumped by 5.5 percent to an annual rate of 1.092 million in May from the revised April estimate of 1.156 million.

The significant decline surprised economists, who had expected housing starts to climb to a rate of 1.215 million from the 1.172 million originally reported for the previous month.

There was also a decline in building permits, a measure of future building activity. That figure tumbled by 4.9 percent to a rate of 1.168 million in May from a revised 1.228 million in April.

Meanwhile, a second economic report indicated weak consumer attitudes, a bad sign for retail spending. The University of Michigan said its preliminary consumer sentiment for June fell to 94.5. The consumer sentiment index is expected to be unchanged at 97.1. The figure was the weakest since last November.

by RTT Staff Writer

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