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By Geoffrey Smith 

© Provided by — U.S. stock markets opened lower on Friday, amid fears that the best of the Covid-era rallly is behind them.

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The prospects of reduced monetary stimulus and the reality of fading fiscal stimulus – even though Covid-19 case rates are still high and having a visible effect on businesses and individuals – are combining with fears of a credit crunch in China to feed a general sense of unease. Technical indicators showing an ever bigger number of stocks flirting with bear market territory have also undermined belief in the broad strength of this year’s move to new records, while a string of high inflation data is persuading many that the tightness seen in some product markets is due more to unsustainable demand rather than disrupted supply chains.

By 10:23 AM ET (1423 GMT), the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 150 points, or 0.4%, while the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite were both down 0.6%. The indices were all on course for their second straight weekly loss. That may reflect in part the urge to take profits as quarterly options and futures in indices and individual stocks expire later Friday.

Over 15% of S&P 500 stocks are now more than 20% off their peaks for this year, a statistic suggests that investors are losing faith in the ability of much of the market to keep growing earnings from their current levels. Warnings of higher input costs were rife in the recent earnings season, and the August consumer prices report, which painted a picture of pockets of inflation rather than a broad rise in prices, suggested that not all companies will succeed in passing on those higher costs.

Among individual movers, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) stock fell 1.1% and Alphabet  (NASDAQ:GOOG) stock fell 0.9% after the decision of both companies to pull an app on tactical voting in the Russian elections this weekend exposed both companies to fresh accusations of appeasing undemocratic regimes. 

Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) stock fell 1.0% and Moderna (NASDAQ:MRNA) stock fell 2.6% ahead of a key meeting of the advisory panel at the Food and Drug Administration that will recommend whether or not people should get booster shots of Covid-19 vaccine. Recent studies, including those published by the companies, have indicated waning protection from their respective vaccines over time.. Official support for booster shots could result in a big step up for the drugs’ total addressable markets.

Diamondback Energy (NASDAQ:FANG) stock rose 3.6% after announcing a $2 billion buyback plan, in an expression of confidence that the company can increase shareholder returns despite the volatility in energy prices over the last 18 months. 

Elsewhere, China fears continued to prey on big mining stocks, with Vale ADRs (NYSE:VALE) falling 4.6% and Anglo American (LON:AAL) ADRs (OTC:NGLOY) falling 6.7% after UBS downgraded its forecast for iron ore prices and the fallout from China Evergrande’s debt problems threatened to raise financing costs for the rest of the Chinese real estate sector, which is typically the Chinese steel industry’s biggest customer.

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