NEW YORK – U.S. stocks declined on Monday after the World Bank cut growth forecasts for East Asia, highlighting concerns about the global economic climate and corporate profits on the cusp of the quarterly earnings season.
The World Bank reduced its growth forecasts for the East Asia and Pacific region and said there was a risk the slowdown in China could worsen and last longer than many analysts have forecast.
China, the world's second largest economy, has been hampered by the euro zone debt crisis. Europe is China's largest trade partner.
"There is just a lot of uncertainty out there, so any little thing right now tends to be a bit of a drag. Some of it is China, some of it may be concerns about Europe again," said Peter Jankovskis, co-chief investment officer at OakBrook Investments LLC in Lisle, Illinois.
The third-quarter earnings season will kick off on Tuesday with results from Dow component Alcoa Inc . Analysts expect Alcoa to report a break-even quarter, down from a profit of 15 cents per share a year earlier, according to Thomson Reuters data. Alcoa shares rose 0.8 to $9.16.
Recent earnings warnings from large multinationals such as FedEx Corp , Caterpillar Inc and Hewlett-Packard Co , which have cited weakness in Europe and China, have made investors cautious about corporate profits.
"Certainly there has been a lot of downward revisions in earnings in general. Some people are predicting that we may see an overall decline in earnings, so there may be some defensive posturing and profit-taking," Jankovskis said.
According to Thomson Reuters data through Friday, 91 companies in the Standard & Poor's 500 have issued negative outlooks versus 21 positive preannouncements, for a ratio of 4.3, the weakest showing since the third quarter of 2001.
The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 43.47 points, or 0.32 percent, to 13,566.68. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index lost 6.71 points, or 0.46 percent, to 1,454.22. The Nasdaq Composite Index fell 22.79 points, or 0.73 percent, to 3,113.39.
There are no economic events or S&P 500 companies scheduled to report earnings on Monday, and trading is expected to be light due to the Columbus Day holiday.
Apple Inc shares shed 1 percent to $646.19 and was the biggest drag on both the S&P 500 and Nasdaq 100 indexes after China Labor Watch, a rights advocate group, said that a Foxconn plant in China that makes Apple's iPhone was crippled by a strike. Foxconn, a Taiwanese company, denied the report.
UnitedHealth Group shares gained 1.3 percent to $57.89, helping to curb losses on the Dow, after the health insurer said it would buy a 90 percent stake in Amil Participacoes SA
Chemicals maker TPC Group Inc said it received a buyout proposal from Innospec Inc for $721.3 million, topping an offer made by private equity firms First Reserve Corp and SK Capital Partners. TPC shares jumped 11.1 percent to $45.20 while Innospec shed 0.6 percent to $34.15..
Wal-Mart Stores Inc and American Express Co said they are teaming up to offer shoppers without traditional bank accounts a prepaid card that allows deposits via smartphone and mobile bill-paying. The card, called Bluebird, will have no minimum balance or monthly, annual or overdraft fees.
Wal-Mart shares advanced 0.3 percent to $75.35, and American Express edged up 0.09 percent to $58.61.
Shares of prepaid card providers tumbled, with Green Dot Corp down 20 percent to $10.28 and Netspend Holdings Inc off 6.8 percent to $10.02.
Shares of Renewable Energy Group Inc slumped 18.5 percent to $5.80 after the biodiesel company said it would post an adjusted loss before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization for the third quarter, versus its prior outlook for an adjusted profit.
(Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; Editing by Leslie Adler)