Friday, January 20, 2006

US stocks suffered their biggest declines in more than two years on concerns about oil supplies from Iran and Nigeria. Crude oil prices jumped to more than $68 a barrel, levels not seen since September last year. Gold hit a 25 year peak and last traded at $553.50 an ounce.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) slumped 213+ points today amid fears of Iran and terrorism. The index has now given up all its gains since the beginning of the year. Among its 30 components, only McDonalds ended the day in positive territory. Disappointing earnings dragged down shares of General Electric Co. and Citigroup Inc.

Since the start of the Q4 earnings season, many analysts have been reducing their earnings expectations. S&P 500 companies are now expected to report a profit growth of 12.7 percent, compared with earlier expectations of 15.5 percent. This analysis was done by Bloomberg using data from Thomson. Earnings growth is expected to slow down to 9.9 percent in the first quarter of this year.

Shares of GE gave up $1.35 to end at $33.33 after the firm reported its smallest earnings gain since 2004. GE is the world’s second largest firm by market value. Q4 earnings rose to 55 cents a share from 54 cents while revenue rose 2.6 percent to $40.7 billion, below analysts’ estimates.

The DJIA was dragged down by Citigroup, largest bank in US. Its stock fell $1.98 to $45.96. The company reported fourth-quarter earnings of $4.97 billion, or 98 cents a share. The earnings were below consensus estimates of $1.

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