US stocks fall after poor trade data

NEW YORK (AFP) - Sellers took over US stock markets on Tuesday as an expanded trade deficit offered a fresh sign of weakness in US growth.

Volatility continued to reign: after an early rise the main indices sank to one-per cent losses before partially recovering in the final hours.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished down 76.49 points (0.50 per cent) at 15,177.54. The broad-based S&P 500 lost 9.04 (0.55 per cent) at 1,631.38, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite fell 20.11 (0.58 per cent) to 3,445.26.

Speeches by several officials of the Federal Reserve kept speculation alive over the timing for the central bank to begin slowing its quantitative-easing bond purchases, though most stressed the need for a clearer trend in the data for US growth.

The trade figures for April released Tuesday suggested some continuing weakness: the deficit widened US$3.2 billion from March to US$40.3 billion on a rise in consumer imports and despite a fall in the bill for imported oil.

"Foreign trade will not provide much of a boost to real GDP growth in 2013," said Gregory Daco of IHS Global Insight.

"Indeed, subdued global growth should keep exports in check while modest domestic activity limits the pull for imports." General Motors added 1.6 per cent after Standard & Poor's announced the company, rescued by the government from near-bankruptcy in the financial crisis, would rejoin the S&P 500 stock index.

Dollar General sank 9.2 per cent after first-quarter earnings came in at 67 cents a share, a gain of four cents from a year ago but three cents below expectations. The discount retailer lowered the high end of its forecast earnings range for 2013, predicting US$3.15-US$3.22 a share compared to US$3.15-US$3.30 previously forecast.

Business marketing software firm ExactTarget soared 52.4 per cent on news that said it would pay US$2.5 billion to acquire it. But Salesforce shareholders were not excited; the company's stock lost 7.9 per cent.

High-caffeine energy drink maker Monster Beverage jumped 10.5 per cent helped by strong broker reports on its sales growth.

Online game-maker Zynga rebounded 2.0 per cent after having sunk 11 per cent on Monday following the announcement that it was cutting nearly a fifth of its staff.

Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year US Treasury rose to 2.14 per cent from 2.13 per cent late Monday, while the 30-year climbed to 3.30 per cent from 3.28 per cent. Bond prices move inversely to yields.