* U.S., European factory sectors improve, China's
* German Bunds, U.S. Treasuries fall in price on strong data
* Upbeat Apple earnings boost U.S., European tech stocks
* AT&T, Caterpillar results miss forecast, cools Wall Street
By Richard Leong
NEW YORK, July 24 U.S. stock prices fell on
Wednesday on disappointing results from several top companies,
while stronger-than-expected U.S. and European factory data
spurred selling in safe-haven U.S. and German government debt,
sending their yields higher.
Poor earnings from Caterpillar and AT&T overshadowed robust
earnings from iPad and iPhone maker Apple and data showing a
pick-up in U.S. manufacturing and new home sales.
Still, both the Dow and S&P 500 were not far below the
intraday record highs they set on Tuesday, while global stock
prices, tracked by MSCI, lingered at a near five-year high.
"The earnings season so far has been pretty good for most
companies. Investors anticipated good numbers and they got them,
although the forecasts haven't been necessarily strong enough to
push the market higher," said Rick Meckler, president of
LibertyView Capital Management in Jersey City, New Jersey.
"I think the market now stands at a point where you are
going to need good economic numbers to really move higher."
News of surprise improvement in U.S. and European factory
activity offset further signs China's economy is cooling. Data
showing the Chinese manufacturing sector contracting for a third
straight month spurred selling in oil.
Better outlooks for the United States and Europe supported
the dollar and euro, while gold snapped its four-day winning
streak on profit-taking.
Initial estimates of manufacturing activity across the
17-nation currency bloc showed the region on course to end its
18-month old recession, led by an upsurge in activity in German
and French factories.
"The improvement in manufacturing (in Europe) was driven by
Germany and the periphery economies, indicating that the
region's long, drawn-out recession may be coming to an end,"
said Boris Schlossberg, managing director of FX Strategy at BK
Asset Management in New York.
Across the Atlantic, Markit's "flash" U.S. Manufacturing
Purchasing Managers Index rose to 53.2, a four-month high, while
output also was at its strongest since March.
Investor sentiment was also boosted by a U.S. government
report showing that new home sales rose to a five-year high in
June even in the wake of higher mortgage rates.
The encouraging data from the United States and Europe
offset worrisome news from China. A survey of its vast
manufacturing sector showed Chinese activity slowed to an
11-month low in July, suggesting the world's second-biggest
economy was still losing momentum.
After opening higher, U.S. blue-chip stocks turned lower,
while the Nasdaq Composite Index held its gains.
In midafternoon trading, the Dow Jones industrial average
was down 63.43 points, or 0.41 percent, at 15,504.31. The
Standard & Poor's 500 Index was down 8.63 points, or 0.51
percent, at 1,683.76. The Nasdaq Composite Index was
down 3.22 points, or 0.09 percent, at 3,576.05.
Shares of heavy equipment maker Caterpillar fell 2.1
percent to $83.75 after it reported lower quarterly profits and
reduced its outlook for full-year earnings.
AT&T stock shed 1.8 percent to $35.16 after the No. 2
U.S. mobile service provider reported quarterly profits that
missed forecasts despite better-than-expected revenues.
Caterpillar and AT&T are components of the Dow and S&P 500.
Unlike their U.S. counterparts, European shares clung to
gains. Europe's broad FTSEurofirst 300 index
provisionally closed up 0.6 percent at 1,214.63, receding from
an early 0.9 percent gain.
Its initial gains were bolstered by a 0.9 percent rise in
technology stocks on the back of Apple's
forecast-beating results posted after the U.S. market closed on
Tuesday. Apple shares were up 5.8 percent at $443.20, their
highest level since June 10.
MSCI's world equity index was down 0.4
percent on the day at 374.65, held back partly due to weakness
in Asian shares on concerns over China's outlook and the
downturn on Wall Street.
The better prospects for the U.S. economy supported the
greenback, which rose 0.9 percent to a tad above 100 yen,
moving away from a one-week low of 99.13 yen touched on Tuesday.
The dollar index rebounded after skidding to a
one-month low of 81.926 on Tuesday. It was last up 0.54 percent
A stronger dollar stoked profit-taking in gold, which hit a
one-month high earlier this week. Spot bullion prices
fell 2.1 percent at $1,318.44 an ounce.
The latest euro zone factory data sent the euro to a
one-month high against the dollar past $1.3256 before
buying faded. The single currency was last down 0.3 percent at
The improved outlook for the United States and Europe
reduced the safe-haven appeal of low-risk Treasuries and Bunds.
Benchmark U.S. 10-year government notes fell
31/32 in price to yield 2.6221 percent, the highest level in
about 1-1/2 weeks, while German Bund futures were down
more than 1 point at 142.45, the lowest in two weeks.
In the oil market, traders were focused on the weak Chinese
data as the world's No. 2 economy has been a major importer of
raw materials, supporting prices in recent years.
Brent oil fell $1.65 or 1.52 percent at $106.77 a
barrel and U.S. crude lost $2.17 or 2 percent at $105.06.