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Stocks falling after consumer spending slides
Report of a third straight month of weak consumer spending sends stocks lower on Wall Street
By The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) Stocks slipped Monday morning on Wall Street after a disappointing report on retail spending suggested that U.S. consumers may once again be heading for shelter.

The Dow Jones industrial average was off 32 points at 12,745 at 11:30 EST.

It was the third straight month that retail sales fell. The Commerce Department said retail sales fell 0.5 percent in June from the month before as Americans spent less on autos, furniture and appliances.

The latest figures carry a particularly heavy resonance because the last time consumer spending fell for three straight months was during the fall of 2008, at the depth of the global financial crisis.

Companies that rely heavily on spending by consumers were among the weakest on the New York Stock Exchange. Home Depot fell 45 cents to $51.61 and Lowe's Cos. lost 56 cents to $26.16.

Industrial stocks also fell sharply. General Electric lost 20 cents to $19.56 and heavy equipment maker Caterpillar lost $1.05 to $81.02, one of the biggest losses among the 30 stocks that make up the Dow average.

Markets were also taking a hit after the International Monetary Fund lowered its estimate for global economic growth. The global lender said it expects the world economy to expand 3.5 percent this year, down from its previous estimate of 3.6 percent in April.

In other trading, the Standard & Poor's 500 index fell less than two points to 1,355 and the Nasdaq composite index fell nearly three points to 2,906.

Citigroup rose 1.4 percent after beating Wall Street's profit estimates. The stock was up 37 cents at $27.01 after the bank reported income of $2.9 billion. Other banks also rose. Citi was able to set aside less money to cover bad debts with more people paying loans on time. JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo also reported strong results Friday.

Comments from Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao over the weekend didn't help. Wen said his country's economy has not yet entered a recovery and "economic difficulties may continue for some time." Some of the weakness in China comes from the debt crisis in Europe, which has crippled spending on imported goods.

In Europe, borrowing rates for Italy and Spain rose again, the latest signal of investors being jittery about the finances of those countries. Stocks fell 2.1 percent in Spain and 1 percent in Italy. Benchmark indexes in Germany and France were flat.

The U.S. corporate earnings season resumes in earnest this week with reports from major U.S. corporations that cover a wide span of the economy. On deck Tuesday are Harley-Davidson, Coca-Cola, Goldman Sachs and Johnson & Johnson. Intel and Yahoo also report this week.

Other stocks making big moves included:

Visa rose $4.10 to $128.19 and MasterCard rose $12.90 to $442.50. The two giant payment processing companies, along with major banks, settled a seven-year old lawsuit with merchants over fees they charge when customers pay with credit cards.

Par Pharmaceutical jumped $13.60 to $50.189. The generic drug maker agreed to be acquired for $1.84 billion in cash by the private investment firm TPG. The offer was a 37 percent premium to Friday's closing price.

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