- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 23, 2008


NEW YORK — Stocks posted their biggest loss in more than a week yesterday as record oil prices and disappointing earnings from technology, health care and consumer companies rekindled concern that the profit slowdown will spread beyond banks.

Texas Instruments tumbled the most since October on slowing orders from phone companies. UnitedHealth dropped almost 10 percent as sales to employers slumped. Coach fell as discounts cut the profitability of its handbags. Target led retailer declines as oil rose above $119 a barrel.

The S&P; 500 declined 12.22 points, or 0.9 percent, to 1,375.95. The Dow Jones Industrial Average slid 104.71, or 0.8 percent, to 12,720.31. The Nasdaq Composite Index decreased 31.1, or 1.3 percent, to 2,376.94. The Russell 2000 Index of smaller companies dropped 2 percent to 703.71.

About five stocks fell for every one that rose on the New York Stock Exchange.

“Earnings and earnings estimates are coming down,” said Mike Ryan of UBS Financial Services. “We’re likely to see stocks continuing to be under pressure.”

The S&P; 500 has dropped 6.3 percent this year as analysts reduced their projections for first-quarter profits every week since Jan. 4. About 31 percent of S&P; 500 companies that have reported first-quarter results so far have trailed expectations, compared with 25 percent last year.

Texas Instruments predicted its second-quarter would miss estimates after orders for mobile-phone chips slowed. Earnings and sales for the first quarter also trailed analysts’ lowered projections. The stock lost $1.77, or 5.8 percent, to $28.82.

UnitedHealth tumbled $3.66 to $34.15. First-quarter earnings missed estimates as sales to employers and individuals faltered and investment income fell. The company also forecast less full-year profit than it had previously.

WellPoint slipped $1.78 to $46.55. Aetna lost $1.76 to $40.38.

Coach declined 80 cents to $31.70. Gross margin, or earnings left after the cost of goods, narrowed as the Japanese yen gained and retailers discounted products to lure shoppers facing higher fuel and food prices.

Apple, which is scheduled to report fiscal second-quarter results today, retreated $7.96 to $160.20 after American Technology Research downgraded the shares to “neutral” from “buy.”

“We believe the risk/reward at these levels is not compelling,” the firm said, adding the stock may fall as much as 20 percent. “While we believe Apple will report a strong quarter relative to guidance and published consensus estimates, we are concerned whether it will be good enough and whether investors will be forgiving with conservative guidance.”

McDonald’s lost 32 cents to $58.35 even after first-quarter profit rose more than estimated. U.S. comparable-store sales fell 0.8 percent last month, the first decline since March 2003, as consumers pinched by rising fuel costs and sinking home values cut spending.

Crude oil for May delivery advanced as much as 2.1 percent as the dollar dropped to an all-time low against the euro, spurring interest in commodities as an inflation hedge.

Target dropped $1.92 to $52.63. Macy’s lost 68 cents to $23.33.

DuPont declined $2.09, or 4 percent, to $50.16 for the steepest slide in the Dow. The chemical company said weak U.S. demand for home insulation and automotive paint may overshadow earnings gains from agricultural products in the remainder of the year.

CIT Group lost $1.99, or 16 percent, to $10.75 for the biggest decline in the S&P; 500. The cash-strapped commercial lender sold $1 billion of shares of stock 14 percent cheaper than Monday’s close.

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