* Boeing rallies after results, offsets Dow and S&P losses
* Durable goods data shows biggest drop in seven months
* AT&T and P&G tumble after results, Apple also weaker
* Indexes: Dow off 0.2 pct, S&P flat, Nasdaq off 0.3 pct
By Ryan Vlastelica
NEW YORK, April 24 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks edged lower on Wednesday as weaker-than-expected economic data and disappointing earnings, including some from the biggest corporate names, overshadowed a rally in Boeing shares.
March durable goods orders slumped 5.7 percent in March, the government said, marking the biggest decline in seven months. Economists polled by Reuters had expected orders to fall only 2.8 percent. The drop was the latest sign global growth could be slowing.
On the upside, Boeing jumped 3.4 percent to $91.16 and gave the biggest boost to the Dow after the aerospace company reported earnings that beat expectations. Boeing rallied despite concerns over the company’s 787 Dreamliner.
“Boeing is reflective of global economic activity, so those results are very encouraging and helping to deflect anxieties about a summer swoon, a fear economic data has been supporting,” said Mark Luschini, chief investment strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott in Philadelphia.
While a majority of companies have topped earnings estimates in the latest quarter, there have been some high-profile disappointments. Late Tuesday AT&T Inc reported a net loss of cellphone subscribers, sending shares down 5.3 percent to $36.94, the biggest percentage decliner on the Dow.
Procter & Gamble Co, another Dow component, slumped 4.2 percent to $78.47 after issuing a profit outlook that was below expectations. It was the biggest drop for the stock since January 2009, and contributed to a 0.5 percent drop in the S&P consumer staples index index.
Both AT&T and P&G are in defensive sectors, which have led the S&P 500 index’s 11 percent gain so far this year. Luschini, who helps oversee about $55 billion, said that valuations were rich in the companies after their gains “and unless they had absolutely smoked expectations they would be subject to some profit-taking.”
Apple Inc, one of the largest U.S. companies by market capitalization, fell 1.3 percent to $400.80 after reporting its first drop in quarterly profit in a decade. The maker of iPads and iPhones also announced share repurchases and higher dividends totaling $100 billion.
“But we’re at a pause before we see the benefit of new product launches, which will drive profits in coming quarters,” said Luschini. “The good news is ahead, but in the meantime this is an attractive way to treat shareholders,” adding that Janney wouldn’t hesitate to buy the stock at current levels if it didn’t already have a position.
The Dow Jones industrial average was down 31.34 points, or 0.21 percent, at 14,688.12. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index was down 0.54 point, or 0.03 percent, at 1,578.24. The Nasdaq Composite Index was down 9.83 points, or 0.30 percent, at 3,259.50.
With 174 companies in the S&P 500 having reported, 68.4 percent have topped expectations, according to Thomson Reuters data, above the average of 63 percent since 1994. Earnings are seen growing 3.1 percent in the quarter, up from estimates of 1.5 percent at the start of the month.
Corning Inc gained 4.8 percent to $13.76 after the specialty glass maker’s first-quarter profit beat analysts’ estimates, helped by strong demand for its scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass used in smartphones and tablets.
In merger news, OPKO Health Inc will buy Israel-based biopharmaceutical company Prolor Biotech Inc in an all-stock deal valued at $480 million to expand its portfolio of specialty drugs. OPKO dipped 3 percent to $6.85 while Prolor jumped 7 percent to $6.24.