Wall Street may be in for a wild ride today after a sharp retreat for stocks in Japan. US stock futures dropped after the Nikkei index in Tokyo plunged 7.3 percent overnight, its worst one-day loss in more than two years. Global stock markets are in retreat, hammered by a one-two punch.
The first blow was struck when US markets turned from gains to losses after the release of minutes from the Federal Reserve. The minutes showed that a number of officials were ready to taper off the aggressive policy of quantitative easing, with the monthly purchase of $85 billion in government bonds. The Fed's recent moves had helped push up stock prices.
The second shoe to drop came from China. The HSBC Purchasing Managers Index fell this month, adding to signs of a fragile economic recovery for the world's second-largest economy is losing steam. HSBC economist Hongbin Qu in a statement, "The cooling manufacturing activities in May reflected slower domestic demand and ongoing external headwinds." China's economic growth slowed unexpectedly in the first quarter and forecasters have cut their growth outlook for the year.
Loan rates for more than 7 million students are set to double unless Congress acts by a July 1 deadline. The House is expected to pass a Republican plan linking student loan rates to the financial markets over a veto threat by President Obama. Under the GOP proposal, student loans would be reset every year and based on 10-year Treasury notes, with added percentage points. The Senate may reject the Republican bill which would provide some students a deal in the first years of the new system before ratcheting up interest rates later. Consumer groups and student organizations want low fixed rates. "The House is poised to throw college students under the bus by approving a student loan plan that drives up their costs," said Christine Lindstrom, higher education director for the consumer advocacy group US PIRG. Republicans say holding onto cheap fixed rate loans is not realistic.
At first glance the numbers look awful for Hewlett-Packard. The world's largest personal computer maker reported a seventh straight decline in quarterly revenue compared with the previous year. Sales plunged 10 percent for HP's latest quarter. But the company cut costs and CEO Meg Whitman is overhauling product lines with pushes into more profitable niches in business software, data analysis and storage and technology consulting. The changes cheered investors. HP shares rose nearly 14 percent in after-hours trading.
The first-ever attempt by a solar-powered plane to fly day and night without fuel across the US is going well so far. The Solar Impulse landed early today at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport after taking off Wednesday from Phoenix. The plane flew its first leg from California in early May. The solar airplane plans to fly to New York in three stages. Each flight leg takes 20 or so hours, with multiday stops in each city. Pilot Andre Borschberg is one of the plane's creators along with Bertrand Piccard.
Richard Davies Business Correspondent ABC News Radio abcnews.com Twitter: daviesabc