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Stocks Drop as China Seeks Slower Growth; Italian Bonds, Commodities Fall

Stocks (MXWD) fell for a second day and the yen strengthened after China announced its lowest economic growth target since 2004 and European services and manufacturing output was revised lower. Italian 10-year bonds snapped a six- day rally and commodities declined.

The MSCI All-Country World Index (MXWD) dropped 0.4 percent at 10:50 a.m. in London. Standard & Poor's 500 Index futures slipped 0.6 percent. The yen strengthened against all 16 of its most-traded peers, while China's yuan touched a four-week low. The yield on the 10-year Italian bond advanced three basis points to 4.94 percent and the cost of insuring against default on European government debt climbed to the highest in six weeks. Copper slid 1 percent and natural gas fell 2.9 percent.

China cut the nation's economic growth target to 7.5 percent from an 8 percent goal in place since 2005, according to Premier Wen Jiabao's speech at the National People's Congress today. European services and manufacturing output shrank in February more than earlier estimated, Markit Economics said, before a report that may show U.S. factory orders fell for the first time in three months. Greece's private creditors decide this week whether to sign off on the country's debt.

"It's a much more challenging market to be bullish in," saidAndrew Pease, the Sydney-based chief investment strategist for the Asia-Pacific region at Russell Investment Group, which manages about $150 billion. "While the risk of financial Armageddon in Europe is gone, Europe is still going to have a large recession."

Salzgitter Slides

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index sank 0.7 percent. Salzgitter AG dropped 5.6 percent, the most since November, as the German steelmaker said it's "impossible" to give detailed earnings forecasts. BP Plc rose 1.7 percent after Europe's second-biggest oil company reached a $7.8 billion settlement with businesses and individuals over the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster.

The retreat in S&P 500 futures indicated the U.S. gauge will fall for a second day. A report at 10 a.m. New York time may show orders to U.S. factories fell 1.5 percent in January, according to a Bloomberg survey of economists.

The extra yield, or spread, that investors demand to hold Italian 10-year bonds instead of benchmark German bunds increased three basis points, while the Spanish-German spread widened five basis points.

The Markit iTraxx SovX Western Europe Index of credit- default swaps on 15 governments rose four basis points to 349, the highest since Jan. 18.

Yen Strengthens

The yen climbed 0.8 percent against the euro and advanced 0.7 percent versus the dollar. The euro weakened less than 0.1 percent to $1.3196, sliding for the fourth straight day.

The S&P GSCI gauge of 24 commodities dropped 0.5, led by declines in natural gas, lead and zinc. Cotton jumped the daily maximum allowed of 4 cents a pound, or 4.5 percent, after Indiahalted exports. The U.S. is the biggest cotton exporter, followed by India.

The MSCI Emerging Markets Index (MXEF) fell 1.1 percent after closing at a seven-month high last week. The yuan declined 0.1 percent to 6.3067 per dollar and earlier touched 6.3076, the weakest level since Feb. 7, according to the China Foreign Exchange Trade System. The Hang Seng China Enterprises Index (HSCEI) slid 2.3 percent.

The Taiex index retreated 1.4 percent after Taiwanese technology companies reported slumping sales. The BSE India Sensitive Index fell 1.6 percent before the results of state elections tomorrow that may be crucial in determining the future of the ruling Congress Party's economic agenda. The Micex Index (MICEX) gained 0.7 percent after Vladimir Putin won a presidential election. 


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