Stocks end lower, Intel posts best quarter
Investors took a step back Thursday, with stocks ending lower ahead of Intel's blockbuster earnings.
The Dow Jones industrial average, lost 23.54 points, or 0.2% to close at 11,731.90 according to preliminary figures. The S&P 500 slipped 2 points, or 0.2%, ending the day at 1,283.76, and the Nasdaq fell 2 points, or 0.1%, closing at 2,735.29.
After the bell, Intel reported the best fourth-quarter earnings in company history. The company posted earnings per share of 59 cents.
Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters had forecast earnings of 53 cents per share. Revenue for the Santa Clara, Calif., company rose 3% over the previous year to $11.5 billion, topping analysts' forecasts of $11.37 billion.
The bulk of the Dow's decline for the day came from Merck, whose shares dropped 6% after the drugmaker said it stopped giving an experimental blood clotting drug to certain patients in a clinical trial. Alcoa, and Bank of America were the other big decliners on the Dow.
Gainers included Home Depot, Caterpillar and Verizon, which just announced plans to sell Apple's iPhone early next month.
Bonds edge up after weak jobs data
Treasury prices edged higher Thursday after disappointing numbers on the job front and the third of three scheduled debt auctions for the week. Meanwhile, eurozone debt worries got a bit of relief.
Before the opening bell, the government reported that the number of Americans filing for their first week of unemployment benefits jumped sharply last week, two weeks after hitting a 2-1/2 year low below 400,000.
There were 445,000 initial jobless claims filed in the most recent week, which was much higher than expected.
Meanwhile, continuing claims - a measure of Americans who have been receiving benefits for a week or more - fell to 3.8 million.
There was also a report out showing wholesale inflation rose slightly more than expected and another showing the U.S. trade balance was nearly unchanged.
– CNNMoney.com reporters Catherine Clifford and Laurie Segall contributed to this report.