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Stocks retreat on European worries

NEW YORK — Concerns about how austerity measures in Europe might slow the continent’s economy are catching up with stock markets worldwide. Stock futures fell today.

Currency traders have been moving out of the euro throughout the week because of concerns that strict cost-cutting measures in countries like Greece, Spain and Portugal will slow the continent’s economy to a crawl in the coming years. Stock investors are now looking at those potential long-term problems as well.

Major European markets all fell.

Earlier in the week, stocks rose sharply after a nearly $1 trillion rescue package was launched by the European Union and International Monetary Fund to try and contain mounting debt problems. That stemmed short-term concerns about Greece defaulting on its debt. But the bailout still requires significant austerity measures in some countries.

The euro is down to $1.2464. Earlier in the day it dropped to an 18-month low of $1.2433. The euro has dropped more than 6 percent since the beginning of the month.

Investors focused on how the domestic economy is faring will get reports on retail sales, industrial production and consumer sentiment Friday. Stocks retreated yesterday after a report showed new claims for unemployment fell less than expected and department store Kohl’s provided a disappointing forecast.

Ahead of the opening bell, Dow Jones industrial average futures fell 63, or 0.5 percent, to 10,710. Standard & Poor’s 500 index futures dropped 8.10, or 0.7 percent, to 1,148.70, while Nasdaq 100 index futures fell 11.25, or 0.6 percent, to 1,936.00.

Overseas, Britain’s FTSE 100 dropped 1.9 percent, Germany’s DAX index fell 1.5 percent, and France’s CAC-40 tumbled 2.6 percent.

Retail sales growth likely cooled in April. Economists polled by Thomson Reuters forecast sales rose just 0.2 percent in last month, compared with a 1.9 percent jump in March. Bad weather and an early Easter likely slowed growth.

The Commerce Department report is due out at 8:30 a.m. EDT.

Industrial production, however, likely jumped in April. Economists predict production at the nation’s factories, mines and utilities rose 0.6 percent in April after a 0.1 percent rise in March. An increase of 0.6 percent would be the biggest rise since January and provide further evidence that the manufacturing sector is recovering strongly.

The Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment index likely rose modestly. The preliminary May reading is expected to show the index rose to 73.5 from 72.2 last month.

U.S. Treasury bond prices and gold both rose as investors sought safe-haven investments. The pair have risen throughout the week as investors opted for alternatives to currencies.

The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its price, fell to 3.49 percent from 3.53 percent late yesterday.

Gold rose $16.90 to $1,246.10 an ounce. That’s just shy of the record high of $1,249.20 an ounce it reached earlier in the week.

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