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US stocks fall back from record high

US stocks fell, pulling the Standard & Poor's 500 Index lower after a record high, as a report showed American manufacturing expanded less than forecast in March as factories slowed production and orders waned.

The S&P 500 fell 0.5pc in New York. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 0.2pc. Markets in Ireland and most of Europe were closed for Easter Monday, as were exchanges in Australasia.

"The market is fairly sensitive at this level and that means we need continuing improvement in the economy to keep moving stocks forward," said Randall Warren, of Warren Financial Service in Pennsylvania. "We need good economic reports and we're going to need good earnings reports later this month."

The Institute for Supply Management's factory index fell to 51.3 in March from 54.2 a month earlier, well below forecasts. A number over 50 signals expansion, under 50 means contraction.

A separate report showed construction spending in the US rose in February, paced by the highest level of home building in more than four years.

Data last Friday showed consumer spending climbed in February by the most in five months and confidence unexpectedly improved in March, showing job-market gains are helping Americans overcome tax increases and concerns about federal budget cuts.

Sales tumbled

Industrial and raw-material shares dropped at least 0.9pc for the biggest losses among 10 S&P 500 groups. Investors sold shares of companies most tied to economic growth.

Retailer JC Penney slipped 1.3pc. Shares of the department-store company have plunged 65pc since its February 2012 high as sales tumbled in the first year of a transformation plan under CEO Ron Johnson.

Tesla climbed 21pc. The electric-car maker reached "full profitability" as sales of its Model S sedan were more than 250 units higher than the 4,500 projected in mid-February, according to a statement. Online auctioneer EBay gained 3.8pc after Canaccord Genuity equity analyst Michael Graham upgraded the shares to buy.

Earlier, Asian stocks fell, with Japan's Topix Index falling the most since March 2011, after a survey of sentiment among the country's largest manufacturers missed estimates and an official gauge of China's factory output expanded at a slower-than-expected pace.

The Topix declined 3.3pc, the most since March 15, 2011, as the Bank of Japan's quarterly Tankan survey showed confidence among big Japanese manufacturers improved less than economists estimated.

Panasonic, the Japanese electronics maker, dropped 3.4pc after it was reported a unit that makes entertainment and communications systems for airlines is under a bribery investigation by US regulators. (Bloomberg)

Irish Independent