Wall Street edged lower
on Thursday as housing and financial stocks lost ground after weaker-than-expected housing data gave investors reason to pause after a recent rally.
Housing-related stocks declined after data showed sales of new single-family homes fell for the first time in four months in December and were below Wall Street expectations. The data followed Wednesday's soft pending home sales report and dented optimism that the housing market may have reached a bottom.
Clearly we have had some decent housing data. (But) now we've had, a little bit today and yesterday, a potential slowdown, said Ryan Detrick, senior technical strategist at Schaeffer's Investment Research in Cincinnati.
It does seem like a little bit of profit-taking on the weak housing data.
Toll Brothers Inc
Stocks rose at the start of the session after data showed orders for durable manufactured goods rose more than expected in December, while unemployment benefit claims last week rose only moderately.
The Federal Reserve's vow on Wednesday to keep interest rates near zero at least until the end of 2014 also underpinned stocks, leading investors to bet more money would be driven into risky assets. The benchmark S&P index was up more than 5 percent for the year.
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> gained 40.11 points, or 0.31 percent, to 12,797.07. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> slipped 0.93 point, or 0.07 percent, to 1,325.12. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> shed 1.50 points, or 0.05 percent, to 2,816.81.
This is one of the busiest weeks of earnings season, with 117 S&P companies expected to report. According to Thomson Reuters data, 59 percent of the 152 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported earnings beat analysts' forecasts, down from the 70 percent beat rate in recent quarters at this stage.
Micromet's shares jumped 31.9 percent to $10.92 and were the most heavily traded on Nasdaq.
(Reporting By Chuck Mikolajczak; Editing by Kenneth Barry)