Wall Street falters on economic jitters

 @ibtimes
on April 23 2009 12:08 PM

U.S. stocks declined on Thursday as bleak reports on housing and the labor market dented hopes the economic slump was abating and outlooks from bellwethers like UPS heightened worries about corporate profits.

Even so, as some companies, including Apple Inc , posting stronger-than-expected results, investors found some relief, helping limit the market's losses. Apple was among the Nasdaq's biggest boosts, up more than 3 percent.

United Parcel Service Inc lost 4.3 percent to $52.41 after it said profit was hurt by the economic downturn and gave a second-quarter view that was below expectations.

Government data showed existing homes sales fell in March to a much lower-than-expected annual rate, while weekly initial jobless claims rose slightly more than expected.

Let's face it, this economy is still pretty darn weak. Almost any benchmark that you expect to see is very likely to be either disappointing or slightly disappointing or slightly better than expected because we're bouncing along some kind of bottom here, said Cummins Catherwood, managing director at Boenning and Scattergood in West Conshohocken, Pennsylvania.

It's very, very hard to predict this stuff as everybody is finding.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> fell 58.62 points, or 0.74 percent, to 7,827.95. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> gave up 5.35 points, or 0.63 percent, at 838.20. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> lost 15.24 points, or 0.93 percent, to 1,630.88.

Financial shares cushioned the S&P 500 after several large regional banks gave better-than-expected results. Pittsburgh-based PNC Financial Services Inc rose nearly 3 percent to $39.18, while Cincinnati's Fifth Third Bancorp jumped 3.5 percent to $3.83.

But analysts said worries surround the banking sector over what government stress tests on 19 major U.S. banks will reveal. The government is set to unveil the results on May 4.

Technology and Internet giants Apple Inc and eBay Inc were the biggest lifts on the Nasdaq after both companies topped Wall Street's expectations.

Apple gained $3.71 to $125.22, while eBay spiked up 9 percent at $16.12.

The broad S&P 500 is up more than 24 percent from the bear market lows of early March. Analysts said some profit-taking was not unexpected after the impressive rally, but declines could be offset by investors who missed the rally looking to get back into the market.

(Reporting by Leah Schnurr; additional reporting by Ellis Mnyandu; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

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