At 12:50 p.m.: DJIA: -0.11%, S&P 500: -0.24%, NASDAQ: -0.45%.
1) The end of the payroll tax holiday and the possibility of continued political wrangling in Washington over the federal budget have left a mark on consumer sentiment. The benchmark survey, conducted by Thomson Reuters and the University of Michigan, showed that consumer sentiment fell unexpectedly for the second month in a row, hitting a one-year low.
2) As expected, China’s GDP grew at a relatively sluggish pace in 2012. Economists polled by Reuters were looking for 7.8 percent annual growth, and Chinese officials reported 7.9 percent for the year. This is the slowest growth rate since 1999, and projections for 2013 are mixed.
Stable, not rapid, growth is the policy of the country’s new leadership. This could mean a modest target of 7.5 percent annual GDP growth. However, this rate may conceal a high level of economic activity because of massive infrastructure programs that China appears to be lining up for 2013.