Stocks record worst week of the year on news of China

U.S. stocks fell Friday, with the major indexes recording their worst week this year, after China reported its economy slowed more than anticipated.

“The market dropped because China’s economy is slowing down more than expected,” said Jim Sloan of Jim Sloan & Associates in Houston, Texas.

“Everybody’s worried, and everybody’s unsure if the global economy can stand on its own, and China is a big part of global growth. If it slows too rapidly, that would create a lot of pain. I don’t think it will, but there’s uncertainty,” said Alan Skrainka, chief investment officer at Cornerstone Wealth Management LLC.

Still, “after an explosive 30 percent rise, we were due” for a correction, said Skrainka of the market’s climb from its October lows.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 136.99 points, or 1.1 percent, to close at 12,849.59, leaving it down 1.6 percent from the prior week, and its most substantial weekly hit since the middle of December.

The S&P 500 dropped 17.31 points, or 1.3 percent, to 1,370.26, off 2 percent from the week-ago close, with financial and technology faring the worst and utilities and consumer staples the best performers among its 10 industry groups.

Electric cars, hybrids grab bigger market share

Americans are buying record numbers of hybrid and electric cars as gas prices climb and new models arrive in showrooms, giving the vehicles their greatest share yet of the U.S. auto market.

Consumers bought a record 52,000 gas-electric hybrids and all-electric cars in March, up from 34,000 during the same month last year.

The two categories combined made up 3.64 percent of total U.S. sales, their highest monthly market share ever, according to Ward’s AutoInfoBank. The previous high was 3.56 percent in July 2009, when the Cash for Clunkers program encouraged people to trade in old gas guzzlers for more fuel-efficient cars.

And while their share of the market remains small, it’s a big leap from the start of the year, when hybrids and electrics made up 2.38 percent of new car sales.

Buyers were drawn by new models like the Toyota Prius C subcompact, the Prius V wagon and Camry hybrid. Gas prices near or above $4 per gallon added to the cars’ attraction.

Slow-rising gas prices keep overall U.S. inflation quiet

Gas prices rose more slowly in March, keeping overall U.S. inflation mild.

The consumer price index rose 0.3 percent in March, the Labor Department said Friday. That’s slower than February’s 0.4 percent rise.

Excluding food and gas, so-called “core” prices increased 0.2 percent in March.

Inflation has eased since last fall and is expected to stay tame. In 12 months that ended in March, prices rose 2.7 percent. That’s below last year’s peak year-over-year rate of 3.9 percent.

Core prices have risen 2.3 percent in the past 12 months, close to the Federal Reserve’s inflation target of 2 percent.

— From news service reports