While you were sleeping: Disappointment rules Wall Street
Wall Street declined after reports on house prices, consumer confidence and business activity missed the mark, as did earnings by Exxon Mobil.
In early afternoon trading in New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.52 percent, the Standard & Poor's 500 Index declined 0.34 percent and the Nasdaq Composite Index dropped 0.31 percent.
Shares of UPS and Exxon Mobil dropped after reporting fourth-quarter results.
"Earnings in general are not as robust as what we saw a year ago," Nicholas Colas, chief market strategist at the ConvergEx Group in New York, told Reuters. "Results are a little weak on the revenue line and that's putting a cloud on things."
Of the 192 S&P 500 companies that reported results since January 9, 129 posted per-share earnings that surpassed forecasts, Bloomberg data showed.
The latest data fuelled concern about the strength of the recovery in the world's largest economy. Reports released today showed that US home prices and consumer confidence weakened, while business activity in the US Midwest, as per the Institute for Supply Management-Chicago business barometre, expanded at a slower pace than expected.
The S&P/Case-Shiller composite index of single-family home prices in 20 metropolitan areas fell 0.7 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis in November, exceeding the 0.5 percent drop economists expected.
The Conference Board said an index of consumer attitudes fell to 61.1 in January from a revised 64.8 in December. Analysts had expected a pick-up in confidence.
"We are braced for a more bumpy picture over the next few months. A lot of expectations probably ran away or got a little too lofty coming into the end of the year," Sean Incremona, economist at 4Cast in New York, told Reuters. "We are still in a very modest recovery, and we do see consumption slowing this quarter, and data like this supports that picture."
In Europe, however, the Stoxx 600 Index ended the day with a 0.8 percent gain. That brought its climb to 4 percent for the month, the biggest January gain since 1998, according to Bloomberg News.
European Union leaders yesterday agreed to a new treaty that allows the enforcement of stricter budget discipline. Britain and the Czech Republic opted out of the pact.
Yesterday's EU summit also resulted in a decision to accelerate the creation of the area's permanent bailout fund, the European Stability Mechanism, to July 1 this year.
In Greece, Prime Minister Lucas Papademos says Athens is aiming for a definitive agreement on the debt swap by the end of this week - about the same time it expects to conclude talks on its second bailout.
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