The Dow and S&P were flat on Thursday while the Nasdaq slipped as investors paused to digest corporate earnings against raised expectations in a market many analysts viewed as extended.
JPMorgan Chase & Co
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On Wednesday, U.S. stocks suffered their worst decline in two months as analysts said the market is entering a corrective phase that could drag equities lower in the weeks ahead.
It's a reaction to companies that aren't performing to the level that people thought they were, said Kim Caughey Forrest, senior equity research analyst at Fort Pitt Capital Group in Pittsburgh.
This recovery, with respect to earnings, has been going on for some time -- but instead of it being easy for companies to show huge gains, we are really going to see winners and losers again.
Underscoring how overbought the market has become in recent weeks, stocks failed to react to positive jobs and housing market data that pointed to a strengthening recovery.
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> dipped 5.82 points, or 0.05 percent, to 11,819.47, after briefly turning positive in mid-afternoon. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> dipped 1.31 points, or 0.10 percent, to 1,280.61, following a brief gain of 0.1 percent in mid-afternoon trading. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> lost 17.41 points, or 0.64 percent, to 2,707.95.
Natural resources stocks came under pressure after data showing high growth in China stoked fears the country may need to tighten credit in order to check inflation.
U.S. crude oil futures posted a third consecutive lower settlement. The expiring February crude contract settled at $88.86 per barrel, down 2.2 percent, which was the biggest percentage slide since prices fell 2.37 percent on January 4.
In another example of how the market's elevated earnings expectations, Parker Hannifin Corp
The latest data indicated that two weak spots in the U.S. economy -- housing and jobs -- appear to be on the mend. U.S. existing home sales jumped more than expected in December despite bad weather as the housing sector struggled to recover from a severe slump, according to a report from the National Association of Realtors. Earlier in the day, the Labor Department reported that U.S. initial jobless claims posted their biggest weekly decline in nearly a year.
(Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; Editing by Jan Paschal)