In this Friday, April 12, 2013, photo Trader Lewis Vande Pallen, right, works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. World stock markets mostly sank Monday April 15, 2013 as China's slower-than-expected economic growth and disappointing U.S. retail sales weighed on investor sentiment. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
NEW YORK — A steep fall in commodity prices pulled down energy and mining stocks for a second day today.
Gold plunged below $1,400 an ounce for the first time in two years as a sell-off in metals continued from last week. Oil prices hit their lowest level since mid-December.
“I think you’re getting some panic selling right now,” said Frank Fantozzi, CEO of Planned Financial Services, a wealth management firm. “People who have been holding on to gold expecting a rebound are now thinking, ‘I better get out.’”
The Dow Jones industrial average was down 89 points at 14,776 at noon, a drop of 0.6 percent. Caterpillar led the Dow lower, losing 3 percent to $82.72.
A report that China’s economy unexpectedly slowed pummeled copper and other commodities. The world’s second-largest economy expanded by 7.7 percent in the first three months of the year, well below forecasts of 8 percent or better.
The plunge in commodity prices hit mining and energy stocks. Freeport-McMorRan Copper & Gold fell 7 percent to $29.65. Analysts at Citigroup placed a “sell” rating on the mining giant on the expectation that copper prices will continue sliding.
Of the 10 industry groups in the S&P 500, materials and energy stocks fared the worst, sliding 3 percent. Cliffs Natural Resources lost 8 percent to $17.73, the biggest drop in the S&P 500.
Citigroup rose 3 percent to $46.05, one of the best gains in the S&P 500. The country’s third-largest bank reported earnings that beat analysts’ estimates thanks to stronger revenue from trading and investment banking.
Sprint Nextel jumped after Dish Network offered $25 billion to buy the company. Dish’s bid is aimed at beating an offer from the Japanese phone company SoftBank. Sprint surged 16 percent to $7.20. Dish fell 6 percent to $35.28.
Thermo Fisher Scientific offered to pay $13.6 billion to buy genetic testing equipment maker Life Technologies. Thermo Fisher agreed to pay $76 in cash for each share of Life Technologies. Both stocks jumped. Thermo Fisher rose 3 percent $82.21, and Life Technologies rose 8 percent $73.23.
In other trading, the Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 13 points to 1,576, a loss of 0.8 percent. The Nasdaq composite fell 29 points, or 0.9 percent, to 3,266.
In the market for U.S. government bonds, the yield on the 10-year Treasury note dipped to 1.71 percent from 1.72 late Friday. The yield remains near its low point of the year, 1.69 percent, reached April 5 following news that U.S. employers hired far fewer workers than expected last month.