Why the Dow Is Sliding This Morning

Despite a positive report on the domestic labor market today, all three major indexes are in the red, pulled down by disappointing manufacturing data in Europe and China. An initial reading of the HSBC purchasing managers' index, the earliest indicator of China's manufacturing activity, fell to a four-month low in March.

In Europe, manufacturing and services output contracted more than expected in March, falling to a three-month low. The news helped overshadow an upbeat U.S. labor report that showed the number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits hit a four-year low last week. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI) is down around 0.7% in midmorning trading, while the S&P 500 (INDEX: ^GSPC) has shed nearly 1%.

The losers so far
Through midmorning, Caterpillar (NYS: CAT) and Alcoa (NYS: AA) were two of the biggest losers, both down around 2% so far on the day. The disappointing manufacturing data out of China has spooked investors, as both companies have considerable exposure to the Middle Kingdom. Caterpillar has 17 facilities in China, and is in the process of building more. The company has made a big bet on the Asia-Pacific region, where it has seen its revenue grow over 107% since 2009. Alcoa is the largest multinational investor in China's aluminum industry, and has invested nearly $800 million there since 1993.

Elsewhere, Hewlett-Packard (NYS: HPQ) is continuing its slide, also down nearly 2% on the day so far. Investors haven't reacted well to the news CEO Meg Whitman announced earlier in the week that the company will be combining its printer and PC divisions in order to cut costs and streamline its business.

The big picture
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At the time thisarticle was published Brendan Byrnes owns no shares of any company mentioned above. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days.

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