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The Journal Gazette

Tuesday, March 11, 2014 10:13 am

US stocks edge lower in afternoon trading

A disappointing report on job openings helped nudge major stock indexes back into the red Tuesday afternoon after a brief upswing in the morning. A thin slate of economic data and corporate financial results mostly held investors in a wait-and-see mode.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index was down five points, or 0.3 percent, to 1,872 as of 2:10 p.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones industrial average shed 36 points, or 0.2 percent, to 16,383. The Nasdaq composite dipped 11 points, or 0.3 percent, to 4,323.

SUITING UP: After a months-long back and forth, Men's Wearhouse has agreed to buy Jos. A. Bank for $1.8 billion. Investors cheered the news, lifting Men's Wearhouse stock $3.50, or 6.4 percent, to $58.07. Jos. A. Bank rose $2.48, or 4 percent, to $64.31.

TEEN RETAILER ANGST: American Eagle Outfitters tumbled 86 cents, or 6.1 percent, to $13.35 after the store chain issued a fiscal first-quarter outlook that fell short of Wall Street's expectations. The company also reported an 89 percent slide in its fourth-quarter net income as winter storms weighed on sales. Urban Outfitters, another teen retailer, fell $1.85, or 4.9 percent, to $35.66 after reporting its own results.

RECALL REVIEW: General Motors dipped $1, or 2.7 percent, to $36.09. A congressional committee is investigating the way the automaker and a federal safety agency handled a deadly ignition switch problem in compact cars.

WATCHING THE JOB MARKET: The Labor Department said that employers posted 3.9 million job openings in January, up 1.5 percent from December, a sign that hiring should remain steady in coming months. However, the increase fell short of what the market was expecting.

Investors are watching for any signs the job market is strengthening as they try to gauge how the Federal Reserve will manage its economic stimulus efforts. The central bank is expected to continue paring the bond purchases it has been making to try to keep long-term loan rates low and support the economy. But if economic data signal that the economy is weakening, the Fed could opt to keep the stimulus spigot open.

"The most important data really is the jobs data," said David Roda, regional chief investment officer at Wells Fargo Private Bank. "We think that's going to be a major driver of Fed policy response."

COMEBACK KID: J.C. Penney jumped 37 cents, or 4 percent, to $8.79 after Citigroup upgraded the department store chain, praising the retailer's efforts to recover from a botched overhaul that alienated longtime customers.

SECTOR WATCH: Eight of the 10 sectors in the S&P 500 index fell. Energy stocks lost the most. The technology and consumer staples sectors rose. Among the companies in the S&P 500, McDonald's led the gainers, adding $3.10, or 3.3 percent, to $98.34. The stock is rebounding after slumping a day earlier.

YIELD PLAY: The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.77 percent from 2.78. The yield, which affects rates on mortgages and other consumer loans, has been mostly rising this month from a low of 2.60 percent on March 3.