Wall Street snaps 3-day streak Fri.


NEW YORK -- Wall Street pulled back Friday as a plunge in new housing starts and a sales warning from Microsoft Corp. prompted light selling ahead of a holiday weekend.

Investors remained cautious after economic data released before the market opened showed a bigger-than-expected drop in the construction of new homes. Meanwhile, wholesale prices fell in January by the largest amount in three months amid retreating energy prices.

Technology stocks were weaker after Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer said late Thursday that Wall Street's revenue forecasts for the Vista operating system were "overly aggressive." The stock, trading just off its 52-week high, fell more than 2%.

The decline on Wall Street halts a three-day advance that sent the Dow Jones industrials up more than 200 points. The February rally has been driven by growing confidence that interest rates will hold steady as Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke battles inflation and tries to ease the economy into a soft landing.

"The Microsoft news and the housing data spooked the market," said Jim Herrick, director of equity trading at Baird & Co. "But, this is just a mild drop, not a dramatic sell-off, and I wouldn't be surprised if we see some type of rally toward the afternoon."

In early afternoon trading, the Dow fell 10.18, or 0.08%, to 12,754.83.

Broader stock indicators moved lower. The Standard & Poor's 500 index was down 2.85, or 0.20%, to 1,453.96, and the Nasdaq composite index dropped 4.35, or 0.17%, to 2,492.75.