US STOCKS-Dow, S&P 500 ease as bank earnings disappoint

Thu Jan 16, 2014 3:25pm EST

* Goldman, Citigroup earnings push financial stocks lower

* United Health, CSX drop on results; Best Buy plummets

* Dow down 0.4 pct, S&P 500 off 0.2 pct, Nasdaq up 0.03 pct

By Caroline Valetkevitch

NEW YORK, Jan 16 (Reuters) - The Dow and S&P 500 dipped on Thursday, led by financial shares after a round of disappointing earnings from the sector.

The S&P 500 pulled back from record levels and was nearly flat for the week.

Financials were the biggest drag on the market after both Citigroup Inc and Goldman Sachs Group Inc reported quarterly profits hit by lower bond trading revenue, with Goldman's earnings falling 21 percent and Citigroup's missing expectations.

The results followed fairly positive reads on the sector from JPMorgan Chase & Co, Bank of America Corp and Wells Fargo & Co.

Goldman's stock slid 2.1 percent to $175.06, one of the Dow's biggest decliners, while Citigroup dropped 4.1 percent to $52.75. The S&P financial sector index fell 0.7 percent, making it the biggest loser among the S&P 500 sectors.

Given last year's 30-percent gain for the S&P 500, the market doesn't need much of a catalyst for selling, said Uri Landesman, president of Platinum Partners in New York.

"I think you could see a ratchet downward. It's pricing in just a lot of rosiness and a lot of enthusiasm, and the odds are that the news isn't going to be good enough to sustain that," he said.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 69.99 points or 0.42 percent, to 16,411.95, the S&P 500 lost 3.41 points or 0.18 percent, to 1,844.97 and the Nasdaq Composite added 1.244 points or 0.03 percent, to 4,216.128.

With results in from just 6 percent of S&P 500 companies, just 48 percent of earnings are beating expectations, below the long-term average of 63 percent for a full season.

UnitedHealth Group Inc was the Dow's biggest decliner, falling 2.5 percent to $72.97 even as the largest U.S. health insurer reported a higher fourth-quarter profit and said 2014 earnings would improve.

CSX Corp shares sank 7 percent to $27.17 a day after the U.S. railroad reported profits that missed expectations.

After a lackluster start to 2014 on concerns that stock valuations may be too high after last year's rally, the index surged 1.6 percent over the past two sessions to close at a record high on Wednesday, its first since Dec. 31.

The stock of Best Buy Co Inc plunged 28.2 percent to $26.99, easily the S&P 500's worst performer. The world's largest consumer electronics chain reported a drop in holiday sales and forecast a bigger-than-expected decline in quarterly operating margins.

In the latest economic data, the Consumer Price Index rose 0.3 percent in December while the core CPI, which strips out volatile food and energy prices, edged up only 0.1 percent, suggesting underlying inflation was muted.

In the deal arena, Apollo Global Management LLC said it would buy CEC Entertainment Inc, the parent of the Chuck E Cheese restaurant chain, for about $948 million. CEC Entertainment's stock jumped 12.9 percent to $54.66. In contrast, Apollo Global's shares were up 0.4 percent at $35.88.

A couple walks along the rough surf during sunset at Oahu's North Shore, December 26, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

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