NEW YORK Global shares fell on Wednesday as investors soured on another round of underwhelming corporate results, while the euro slipped on signs that the euro zone is heading toward a deeper recession than previously feared.
Weak earnings outlooks and revenue misses at large U.S. multinationals renewed investor unease about a slowing economy, while no mention of an improving labor market in a statement from the Federal Reserve led stocks to retreat late in the day.
The Fed repeated its vow to keep interest rates near zero until mid-2015 and its pledge to continue to support growth while the economy recovers in a statement at the end of a two-day meeting of the central bank's policy-makers.
The Fed's policy-setting panel made no change in its plan to purchase $40 billion in mortgage-backed debt per month to push interest rates lower and spur a stronger recovery.
Allan Flader, financial adviser at RBC Wealth Management in Phoenix, said the Fed will remain defensive with unemployment still high and the creation of new jobs at a minimal.
"As expected, the Fed wants to stay out of the way of the election and be uninvolved in influencing it. This is what the market expected and it should have no lasting impact on the market," said Jim Awad, managing director at Zephyr Management in New York.
Three of the biggest U.S. weapons makers beat third-quarter earnings forecasts and raised their guidance for the full year, although the possibility of additional U.S. defense budget cuts continued to cloud the industry's outlook for 2013.
Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N), Boeing Co's (BA.N) defense division and Northrop Grumman Corp (NOC.N) reported higher earnings and strong margins despite weakening sales, driving their shares higher on the New York Stock Exchange.
Boeing (BA.N) fell 0.15 percent to $72.71, Northrop (NOC.N) slid 0.5 percent to $69.33 but Lockheed rose 2.1 percent to $93.92.
Corporate results were not so strong elsewhere, and the tone from U.S. management has rattled investors, said Steven Bulko, chief investment officer of Lombard Odier Asset Management, in New York.
"It was anticipated that earnings wouldn't be all that good, but the tone is catching people off guard," Bulko said. "A lot of companies are saying they exited the quarter weaker than where they entered."
According to Thomson Reuters data through Tuesday, of the 161 companies in the S&P 500 that have posted earnings, 60 percent have beaten analysts' estimates, a rate that is down from about 67 percent the past four quarters. Earnings are expected to decline 2.2 percent compared with the year-ago quarter.
The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI closed down 25.19 points, or 0.19 percent, at 13,077.34. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index .SPX fell 4.36 points, or 0.31 percent, at 1,408.75. The Nasdaq Composite Index .IXIC slipped 8.77 points, or 0.29 percent, at 2,981.70.
Earlier in the session data showed China's manufacturing sector shrank for the 12th consecutive month in October, although signs that the slowdown was easing provided temporary relief to a slumping market.
The euro fell against the dollar and yen on unexpectedly weak German data. But the euro's declines were limited after Greece's finance minister said Athens had been given additional time by international lenders to impose its austerity cuts, an assertion played down by leading EU officials.
The euro hit a session low of $1.2918, the lowest in a week, before paring losses to last trade at $1.2972, down 0.1 percent for the day.
Activity in Germany's manufacturing and service sectors declined for a sixth straight month in October as order books thinned, indicating Europe's largest economy has clearly stagnated in the second half of 2012.
European shares halted a three-day slide on Wednesday, with the pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 .FTEU3 index closing up 0.5 percent at 1093.71, after falling 1.7 percent on Tuesday.
MSCI's all-country world equity index .MIWD00000PUS fell 0.1 percent to 328.45.
Brent crude fell for a seventh consecutive session as rising U.S. crude inventories and weak euro zone data offset supportive signs that Chinese petroleum demand could stage a recovery.
Brent crude for December delivery fell 40 cents to settle at $107.89 a barrel. U.S. December crude settled down 94 cents at $85.73 a barrel.
The benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note was down 8/32 in price to yield 1.7889 percent.
(Additional reporting by Ryan Vlastelica and Wanfeng Zhou; Editing by Dan Grebler and Jan Paschal)