Stocks are off to a weak start this week. Investors were discouraged by an 18 percent slump in Chinese exports last month and Japan's lowering of its estimate for fourth-quarter economic growth. The Dow dropped 34 points to 16,418, while the S&P 500 edged down a point to 1,877 and the Nasdaq dropped two points to 4,334. The three major U.S. indexes are still up for the month, and only the Dow is down for the year. Wall Street futures barely budged.
- International stock markets steadied today after a sell-off the day before. Most indexes were flat or modestly higher. Benchmark U.S. crude oil rose toward $101.50 a barrel. The dollar gained against the euro and the yen.
- Inventories and jobs news are the subjects of today's government economic data. The Commerce Department releases its report on wholesale trade inventories for January this morning. December's report showed businesses increased stockpiles at the slowest pace since last summer. Also this morning, the Labor Department releases its job openings and labor turnover survey for January.
- The job outlook is looking up for the second quarter. ManpowerGroup's quarterly Manpower Employment Outlook Survey of employers' intentions to increase or trim back their workforce found a net increase of 13 percent. The workforce solutions company says 19 percent of the more than 18,000 employers surveyed anticipate increasing staff levels.
- The central bank governor says China is likely to ease controls on interest rates paid on bank savings within two years and will allow wider use of its tightly controlled currency for trade and investment. Allowing banks to compete for deposits by paying higher rates on savings would put more money in the pockets of Chinese families, helping to achieve official goals of boosting consumer spending and reducing reliance on trade and investment.