17 Mar 2009

American Express robs Wall St of fifth day of gains

11:45 am on 17 March 2009

US stocks fell on Monday after American Express said the number of people struggling to make credit card payments grew, erasing earlier optimism that banks could return to profit in the downturn.

It was Wall Street's first decline after a four-day winning streak.

American Express, which caters to wealthier consumers that are viewed as more creditworthy, said its credit card default rates rose to 8.7% in February. Shares of American Express lost 3.3% to $12.66.

The Dow Jones industrial average shed 7.01 points, or 0.10%, to 7,216.97. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index declined 2.66 points, or 0.35%, to 753.89.

The Nasdaq Composite Index fell nearly 2% as investors booked profits in semiconductor stocks following a strong week. The Nasdaq lost 27.48 points, or 1.92%, to 1,404.02.

An index of semiconductor shares fell 3.6%, following a 13% gain last week.

Intel also put pressure on the Nasdaq after the company accused Advanced Micro Devices of breaching the terms of a cross-licensing agreement between the rival chip makers.

Even after the recent advance, the S&P 500 is down 16.5% in 2009 and off more than 50% from highs reached in October 2007.