Stocks fell today after news that U.S. consumers spent more last month only because higher gas prices forced them to.
Even with the declines on the last trading day of the quarter, stocks were set to post small gains for the three-month period.
Just after the opening bell, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 98 points at 13,388. The Standard & Poor's 500 index was down nine points at 1,438. The Nasdaq composite index fell 22 points to 3,115.
Americans spent more in August even though their income barely grew, the Commerce Department said. But the spending increase was driven by higher gasoline prices.
Investors were also worried about Spain's economy. The Spanish government announced big spending cuts on Thursday aimed at convincing potential bailout creditors and investors that it has a rock-solid plan to heal its public finances. But the positive momentum generated that budget ground to a halt, as investors awaited more news, including stress test results for 14 banks due after European markets close.
Moody's, the credit rating agency, is also expected to weigh in on Spain's creditworthiness. There are concerns the government's rating will be cut to “junk” status.
Stocks finished higher in Asia on continued speculation that China's central bank will act soon to help the world's No. 2 economy. But stocks fell in Europe as investors continue to fret about Spain's financial health.
Among U.S. stocks with noteworthy moves:
— Bank of America Corp. fell 10 cents, or 1.1 percent, to $8.87 after saying it has agreed to pay $2.43 billion to settle a class-action lawsuit related to its acquisition of Merrill Lynch.
— Blackberry maker Research in Motion Ltd. jumped 85 cents, or 12 percent, to $7.99 after reporting a smaller-than-expected quarterly loss on Thursday night.
— Shoemaker Nike fell $2.29, or 2.4 percent, to $93.71 after saying its first-quarter net income fell 12 percent because higher sales were offset by higher ad spending. The results were better than Wall Street had expected, but investors seemed more worried about the trail ahead for Nike rather than its performance in the last quarter.
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