NEW YORK – Stocks fell moderately in early trading Monday as investors remain wary about the strength of the economic recovery and mounting debt concerns in Europe.
Major indexes have been on a roller coaster lately as investors try to determine whether a nascent global economic recovery is sustainable.
Traders are still grappling with concerns that some European countries, such as Greece, Portugal and Spain, might not be able to rein in mounting debt. Stocks have also been hurt in recent weeks by China's plans to limit economic growth and the U.S. government's proposed rules to restrict trading by large financial institutions.
All of those concerns have investors on edge about whether the global economy can recover strongly in the coming months. Stocks had rallied for 10 months after hitting 12-year lows last March on hopes of a robust rebound.
Investors are looking for fresh evidence of economic growth. The recent troubles demonstrate a recovery might not be happening as fast as some had hoped.
Overseas markets were mixed. Asian stocks fell overnight, while most European markets rose.
In early morning trading, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 39.14, or 0.4 percent, to 9,973.09. The Standard & Poor's 500 index dropped 2.50, or 0.2 percent, to 1,063.69, while the Nasdaq composite index fell 4.85, or 0.2 percent, to 2,136.27.
It's a relatively quiet week in terms of economic reports that could lend further support to the strength or weakness of the economic recovery.
The weekly unemployment report, due out Thursday, will be closely watched. Economists predict the number of workers filing for unemployment benefits for the first time fell last week to 465,000 from 480,000, according to Thomson Reuters.
High unemployment remains one of the biggest obstacles to an economic recovery. However, on Friday, the Labor Department said the unemployment rate fell to 9.7 percent in January from 10 percent a month earlier.
Consumer spending also remains a problem as it accounts for more than two-thirds of all economic activity. The Commerce Department is also expected to say Thursday that retail sales rose 0.3 percent last month after falling 0.3 percent a month earlier.
In the latest earnings reports Monday, the toymaker Hasbro Inc. said its profit surged 77 percent in the fourth quarter while CVS Caremark Corp. said its earnings edged up 11 percent. The results beat Wall Street estimates and their shares rose.
Stocks are coming off an up-and-down week. Major indexes rallied early in the week on upbeat manufacturing data, only to retreat sharply on the European debt worries. Friday epitomized the recent nature of trading.
The Dow rose 10 points for the session, following a furious late-day rally. The index had been down as much as 167 points earlier in the day. For the week, the Dow lost 0.5 percent, giving it its first four-week losing streak since July.
The S&P 500 ended the week down 0.7 percent. It was the first time since March that the index has fallen four straight weeks.