April 23, 2009 / 5:26 PM / 9 years ago

US STOCKS-Wall St near flat as banks, Apple offset weak data

* Apple beats expectations, shares rise

* UPS falls after Q2 outlook misses expectations

* Housing, jobs data worse than expected

* Dow off 0.1 pct, S&P off 0.1 pct, Nasdaq off 0.3 pct

* For up-to-the-minute market news click [STXNEWS/US] (Updates to early afternoon, changes byline)

By Rodrigo Campos

NEW YORK, April 23 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were little changed on Thursday as disappointing economic data and outlooks from bellwethers like UPS were offset by a rise in regional banks.

Upbeat results from companies like Apple Inc (AAPL.O) appeased investors, helping limit the market’s losses. The iPhone maker was among the Nasdaq’s biggest boosts, up more than 3.5 percent.

United Parcel Service Inc (UPS.N) lost 2.3 percent to $53.48 after it said profits were hurt by the economic downturn and gave a second-quarter view that was below expectations. For details, see [ID:nN22253727]

U.S. government data showed existing homes sales fell in March to a much lower-than-expected annual rate, while weekly initial jobless claims rose slightly more than expected. [ID:nN23390443]

Barring a surprise advance on Friday, Wall Street stocks are on track for their first weekly decline since early March.

“Data this morning was a slight disappointment,” said Steve Goldman, market strategist at Weeden & Co in Greenwich, Connecticut.

“We’ve pulled back a bit after six weeks of gains (and) stocks may start to see some consolidation after gains of these magnitude,” he said.

In early afternoon trading, the Dow Jones industrial average .DJI dropped 7.01 points, or 0.09 percent, to 7,879.56 points. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index .SPX dropped 0.59 points, or 0.07 percent, to 842.96. The Nasdaq Composite Index .IXIC dropped 5.36 points, or 0.33 percent, to 1,640.76.

The broader S&P 500 index is up more than 24 percent from its lows in early March. While some profit-taking was not unexpected after the impressive rally, analysts said declines could be offset by investors who missed the rally looking to get back into the market.

Financial shares kept losses in check on the S&P 500 after several large regional banks gave better-than-expected results. Cincinnati’s Fifth Third Bancorp (FITB.O) rose 3 percent to $3.80. [ID:nN23309618]

But analysts said worries surround the banking sector on fears that government “stress tests” on 19 major U.S. banks may reveal weaknesses. The government is set to unveil the results on May 4.

Technology and Internet giants Apple and eBay Inc (EBAY.O) were the biggest lifts on the Nasdaq after both companies topped Wall Street’s expectations. Cable services provider Comcast (CMCSA.O), down more than 4 percent, led declines.

Apple gained 3.6 percent to $125.90, while eBay surged more than 12 percent to $16.58.

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