Closing Update: Markets Fall For A Second Day; Weak Data From Europe, U.S. Sent Stocks Reeling


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U.S. markets ended sharply lower, falling for a second day in the wake of a string of downbeat economic reports. Today's data saw uptick in first-time jobless claims as well as a surprise decline in business conditions in the American mid-Atlantic region as well as a diminished profit forecast today by Wal-Mart.

While the slumping business metrics typically would mean central banks would continue to pour on stimulus measures, traders continued to worry about indications yesterday that the Federal Reserve could end its bond-buying program sooner than many market participants thought.

Stocks started the session lower following Weak French and German Purchasing Managers Index data for February. The French PMI Services report fell to a 48-month low of 42.7, trailing expectations by 1.8 points. In Germany, the PMI Manufacturing report came in at 50.1, slightly below forecasts, while the PMI Services data declined to a lower-than-expected 54.1 score. Overall, the Eurozone flash PMI numbers missed their marks, with manufacturing coming in at 47.8, versus the 48.4 projected, while services plunged to 47.3, missing expectations by 2.6.

Closer to home, initial jobless claims increased to 362,000 last week, topping expert opinion by about 21,000 applicants. The four-week average jumped 8,000 to 360,750, slightly higher than a month-ago.

The Federal Reserve in Philadelphia also reported a surprise decline in its monthly business outlook survey with the reading falling to -12.5 in January from -5.8 in December. Analysts were looking for a positive 1.5 score for the month..

Also today, existing home sales rose 0.4% in January and an annualized rate of 4.92 mln home - up slightly from a revised 4.90 mln pace in December. The limited supply of available home last month did little to boost prices, however, with both median selling prices and average sale prices declining by mid-single digits.

Company earnings were at best a mixed bag today, with Wal-Mart managing a 1.6% rise despite saying its earnings for the current quarter will likely miss analyst estimates due to slowdown in consumer spending since early December and continuing into the new year. But the retailer's Q4 EPS of $1.67 beat analyst forecasts by $0.10 while revenue rose 3.8% to $127.9 bln, also topping estimates by about $300 mln.

Commodities were mostly lower, undermining energy stocks, in particular, while precious metals eked out small gains. Crude oil for April delivery settled $2.38 lower at $92.84 per barrel. March natural gas fell 3.3 cents to $3.246 per 1 million BTU. April gold gained 60 cents to settle at $1578.20 per ounce while March silver added 7.7 cents to finish at $28.70 per ounce. March copper slid 5.5 cents, settling at $3.55 per pound.

Here's where the markets stood at end of the trading day:

Dow Jones Industrial Average down 0.34% to 13,880.62

S&P 500 down 0.63% to 1,502.42

Nasdaq Composite Index down 1.04% to 3,131.49


Hang Seng Index down 1.72%

Shanghai China Composite Index down 2.97%

FTSE 100 Index down 1.51%


(+) PRKR, Federal judge in Florida issues a so-called "Markman Order," adopting most of the company's interpretation of key terms in its patent fight with Qualcomm ( QCOM ).

(+) RPRX, U.S. regulators tell the drug maker it can proceed with Phase III testing of its Androxal drug candidate to normalize testosterone and luteinizing hormone levels in men.

(+) MKTG, Adjusted Q4 net income of $0.07 per share beats analyst forecast by $0.02. Revenue surged 20% to $44.7 mln, topping the Street view by about $1.09 mln. Guides FY13 EPS, revenue above Street view.

(+) BRY, Agrees to be acquired by Linn Energy ( LINE ) for about $2.5 bln in stock. The deal significantly expands LINE's holdings in California and the Permian Basin in western Texas.


(-) PAY, Electronic payments processor slashes its Q1 forecasts, citing weak macro-economic conditions in Europe and South America and delayed projects by several customers. It also forecast disappointing results for the current Q2 ending in April.

(-) TSLA, Q4 net loss widens to $0.65 per share, $0.13 below forecasts. The electric car-maker also said production of its flagship Model S sedan is now on pace to produce 20,000 vehicles yearly and forecasts "slightly positive" Q1 EPS. The Street is expecting a $0.02 loss.

(-) GENT expects European regulators to recommend against approving its main drug candidate intended to treat a hereditary liver disorder.

(-) TASR, Earns $0.07 per share in Q4, down from an $0.11 profit a year ago but beating analyst forecasts by a penny. Revenue climbed 51% to $432.1 mln

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

Copyright (C) 2014 All rights reserved. Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited.

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