US stocks fall on open


US stocks extended losses today, with major indexes off more than 1 per cent, on scepticism the latest European Union summit will yield concrete measures to tackle the region's debt crisis.

Markets were volatile after the US Supreme Court upheld the centerpiece of president Barack Obama's healthcare overhaul.

The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 160.53 points, or 1.27 per cent, to 12,466.48. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index lost 16.51 points, or 1.24 per cent, to 1,315.34.The Nasdaq Composite Index fell 46.08 points, or 1.60 per cent, to 2,829.24.

European shares extended losses today after a press report that Germany would move sooner than expected towards shared debt liability was denied by a finance ministry spokesman.

The FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares was down 0.8 per cent at 992.09 points at 1pm after falling to a low of 989.17 earlier in the session.

The earlier report, on the Wall Street Journal website, had initially prompted stock markets to pare losses.

Markets had initially risen at the start of trading but then lost ground, as weaker bank stocks started to weigh on equities.

German chancellor Angela Merkel has brushed aside demands from Italy and Spain for rapid action to lower their soaring borrowing costs, and poured cold water on proposals backed by France that euro zone countries should assume joint liability for each other's debts.

Although some traders had closed out bets on future falls in European equities, in case stock markets rallied if the EU summit agreed upon new measures to tackle the crisis, they added that the overall bias remained to sell shares.

Traders added that technical patterns on certain key European stock markets also indicated that they looked more likely to fall in the near term.

Technical trading firm FuturesTechs said one such indicator was the re-emergence of a "head-and-shoulders" pattern on the German Dax futures contracts.

The head-and-shoulders pattern, one of the most reliable trend reversal signals, is formed when a price or index rises to a peak and then retreats, before rising again, above the previous peak, forming the 'head', and then falls again, before finally rising again for a third time, but remaining below the second peak.