* Jobless claims unexpectedly fall, U.S. Sept. exports rise
* McDonald's drops after reporting lower Oct. global sales
* Qualcomm rises after revenue tops view, Whole Foods falls
* Dow off 0.5 pct, S&P 500 off 0.7 pct, Nasdaq down 1 pct
NEW YORK, Nov 8 U.S. stocks fell on Thursday as
worries about lawmakers finding a timely solution to the "fiscal
cliff" outweighed stronger-than-expected economic data.
The S&P 500 neared its 200-day moving average of 1,380.74,
seen as a key level of support for the market. On Wednesday the
benchmark index dropped more than 2 percent for the biggest
decline since June 1.
Investors worry that if no deal is reached in Congress over
some $600 billion in spending cuts and tax increases due to take
effect early next year, the struggling U.S. economy could fall
But government data released on Thursday showed a
better-than-expected drop in weekly first-time claims for
unemployment benefits as well as a rise in U.S. exports, news
that briefly lifted stock index futures a day after the market
suffered a post-election plunge.
The prospect of haggling between lawmakers to rein in
ballooning federal budget deficits has deepened the uncertainty
for investors, who have sold stocks on the expectation taxes
will go up on capital gains and dividends.
"How does an investor adapt to the new tax regime and the
potentially lower after-tax return on some of these assets, some
of these stocks? They react by selling," said Bucky Hellwig,
senior vice president at BB&T Wealth Management in Birmingham,
The top drag on the Dow was McDonald's Corp, which
fell 2 percent to $85.11 after the world's largest hamburger
chain reported a 1.8 percent drop in October sales at
established restaurants around the world, its first monthly
sales fall since March 2003.
The Dow Jones industrial average was down 66.91
points, or 0.52 percent, at 12,865.82. The Standard & Poor's 500
Index was down 9.86 points, or 0.71 percent, at 1,384.67.
The Nasdaq Composite Index was down 27.94 points, or
0.95 percent, at 2,909.35.
The three major U.S. indexes shed more than 2 percent
Wednesday as investor focus returned to Europe's economic
troubles and the looming "fiscal cliff" following the
re-election of President Barack Obama.
While a comprehensive agreement to avoid the automatic
spending cuts and tax increases of the "fiscal cliff" was
possible, a more likely scenario is for political leaders to
find a temporary fix to buy time until the new Congress and
Obama are sworn in, which is in January.
Other declining shares included Apple, which was
down sharply for a second day. The stock fell 2.9 percent at
$541.75 and has fallen more than 20 percent from its Sept. 21
all-time intraday high.
The U.S. trade deficit narrowed in September as exports rose
while jobless claims dropped, although last week's damaging
storm along the U.S. East Coast distorted the data.
Qualcomm Inc was a bright spot, up 6 percent at
$61.61 as the biggest boost to both the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq
100 after the leading supplier of chips for cell phones
reported quarterly revenue Wednesday that beat expectations.
Whole Foods Market Inc reported earnings that met
expectations, but said Hurricane Sandy was a drag on sales this
quarter. Its shares slid 5 percent to $91.17.