Wall Street Wavers Amid Global Growth Worries

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Wall Street kicked off the trading week only modestly changed as traders weighed economic growth concerns from countries in Asia and Europe with increasingly upbeat U.S. data.

Today's Markets

As of 3:00 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 46.7 points, or 0.36%, to 12969, the S&P 500 edged higher by 0.56 point, or 0.04%, to 1371 and the Nasdaq Composite slid 4.5 points, or 0.15%, to 2984.

China recorded its biggest trade gap in at least a decade in February as imports surged 39.6% and exports increased by a less-than-expected 18.4%. The country's economy, the second biggest in the world, is driven by exports so it may prove to be a drag on its broader economic output. Just last week, the country cut its 2012 growth target by 0.5-percentage points to 7.5%, the lowest level since 2004.

However, losses losses in Asian and European bourses were kept in check by hopes the weakening data may push China's central bank to loosen monetary policy and lingering optimism over a strong jobs report in the U.S. The U.S. Labor Department said last week the biggest economy in the world added 227,000 jobs last month as the private sector expanded and the government continued contracting.

In Europe, the Italian economy contracted 0.7% in the fourth quarter of 2011, meaning one of the continent's core economies is officially in a recession.

The economic calendar is fairly light on the day, with a fresh read on this U.S. federal budget deficit on tap for 2:00 p.m. ET. Economists expect the deficit to have hit $229 billion in February as compared to $222.5 billion in the same month last year.

In the foreign exchange market, the euro slumped 0.08% to $1.3113, while the U.S. dollar edged lower by 0.05% against a basket of six world currencies that are tracked by the dollar index.

Commodities came under pressure from worries about demand in China. The benchmark crude oil contract traded in New York dipped $1.06, or 0.99%, to $106.34 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor RBOB gasoline fell a penny, or 0.28%, to $3.323 a gallon.

A gallon of regular at the pump costs $3.80 on average nationwide, up from $3.51 last month and $3.56 last year, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge report.

In metals, gold ticked lower by $11.70, or 0.68%, to $1,700 a troy ounce. The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note fell 0.015-percentage points to 2.017%.

Foreign Markets 

European blue chips fell 0.04%, the English FTSE 100 rose 0.09% to 5893 and the German DAX rose 0.31% to 6901.

In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 fell 0.4% to 9890 and the Chinese Hang Seng edged higher by 0.23% to 21134.