MARKET SNAPSHOT: U.S. Stocks Slip After Home-sales Data

Date : 03/21/2012 @ 2:36PM
Source : Dow Jones News
Stock : Oracle Corp. (ORCL)
Quote : 49.25  -0.1 (-0.20%) @ 4:33PM

MARKET SNAPSHOT: U.S. Stocks Slip After Home-sales Data

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By Kate Gibson and Laura Mandaro, MarketWatch

SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) -- U.S. stocks slid on Wednesday after a weak forecast from Baker Hughes Inc. hit the oilfield-services sector and a report on home sales contained some weak spots. But the Nasdaq edged up, furthering a three-month trend of outflanking the other indexes.

"For the last week, the market has been trading in a sideways type of pattern in attempting to work off some of the overbought condition we've got off the last three weeks or so," said Paul Nolte, managing director at Dearborn Partners in Chicago.

"I think we've just gone up too quickly. Yes the economy is improving, but I don't know if it's improving that fast," said Nolte of Wall Street's rapid climb, which has the S&P 500 Index (SPX) up roughly 12% for the year so far.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) fell 33.15 points, or 0.3%, to 13,137.68, with 15 of its 30 components falling.

The S&P 500 Index slid 1.1 point, or 0.1%, to 1,404.42, dragged by a 1% drop in energy shares.

Baker Hughes (BHI) shares slid 5.5%, leading S&P 500 decliners, after the company's first-quarter projections disappointed.

On Tuesday, the averages moderated their losses by the close, with the S&P 500 losing 0.3% in marking its first decline in four sessions.

The Nasdaq Composite (RIXF) again outperformed, extending a trend that's lifted the index 18% this year, twice the size of the Dow average's gains. On Wednesday, the Nasdaq was up 9.59 points, or 0.3%, to 3,083.87.

Gains were supported by Apple (AAPL), up 0.4% at $608.31, and Google Inc. (GOOG) , the third-biggest Nasdaq Component. Heavyweight Oracle Corp. (ORCL) turned lower after the business software company projected earnings at the high end of estimates.

Technology has led the gains in Wall Street's mostly steady rise in 2012.

"Call it the Apple effect," said Nolte of the technology giant, which accounts for more than 4% of the S&P 500 and 12% of the Nasdaq Composite.

In addition to Apple Inc., its shares up 50% so far this year, Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) started "to do well over the last few months" and International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) "continues to do well," said Nolte.

"That is really what has been leading the overall market higher," said Nolte of the three technology companies, which in addition to Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM), represent the four biggest weights on the S&P 500.

For every 14 stocks falling, 15 gained on the New York Stock Exchange, where 357 million shares traded as of 12:15 p.m. Eastern.

Stocks lost some steam after the National Association of Realtors reported home sales fell 0.9% in February to 4.59 million versus an upwardly revised 4.6 million in January. The NAR said the January and February levels were the best in five years.

"I think investors yawned through that one," said Nolte said of the economic report.

Economic reports in the days ahead include a housing-price index on Thursday and data on single-family homes on Friday.

The reports will offer further "indications of the health of the housing market, which is recovering, but is still at very, very low levels," said Nolte, who believes further evidence is needed before a bottom can be called.

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