Stocks retreat on economic data

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NEW YORK -- Wall Street extended its pullback Wednesday as investors, retrenching from an optimistic stance early in the week, waited to see how well corporate earnings and the job market have held up in an uneven economy.

The market showed little conviction for a second day as economic readings offered few surprises and as investors looked for signs -- possibly from the September employment report due Friday -- of whether the market's sharp rebound from mid-August lows has been warranted.

The drop Wednesday preceded earnings reports from the recently completed third quarter and Friday's jobs number, which can signal whether consumer spending will continue apace. Wall Street had little reaction to a report that the nation's service sector, whose industries account for 80% of U.S. economic activity, showed a decline last month.

Homebuilder stocks rose amid a sense among some analysts that the housing market might have hit bottom. Meanwhile, semiconductor shares mostly lost ground on concerns about pricing pressures.

According to preliminary calculations, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 79.26, or 0.56%, to 13,968.05. The Dow moved back above 14,000 on Monday after spending 2 1/2 months below that level amid concerns about soured mortgages, tighter access to credit and the ongoing housing market slump.

Broader stock indicators also fell. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 7.02, or 0.45%, to 1,539.61, and the Nasdaq composite index fell 17.68, or 0.64%, to 2,729.43.

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