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The Journal Gazette

Thursday, July 17, 2014 8:18 am

Stocks edge lower in midday trading; Mattel down

Stocks moved lower in midday trading Thursday, weighed down by weak financial results from U.S. companies and a government report showing U.S. home construction slowed in June to its slowest pace in nine months. SanDisk, AutoNation and Mattel were among the biggest decliners.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average fell 63 points, or 0.4 percent, to 17,075 as of 12:13 p.m. Eastern Time. The Standard & Poor's 500 index shed 13 points, or 0.7 percent, to 1,967. The Nasdaq composite slid 39 points, or 0.9 percent, to 4,386.

MIXED PICTURE: Government reports about the economy were inconclusive. The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits fell last week, an encouraging sign about the labor market, however home construction fell in June to the slowest pace in nine months, a setback to hopes that housing will boost economic growth. Homebuilders slumped on the news. M/I Homes fell the most, sliding $1.09, or 4.6 percent, to $22.66.

"The housing starts numbers were weak, but housing has been incredibly volatile," said Randy Frederick, managing director of trading and derivatives at the Schwab Center for Financial Research. "They were definitely disappointing."

MICROSOFT LAYOFFS: Microsoft said early Thursday it will eliminate up to 18,000 jobs over the next year as it works to integrate the Nokia business it bought in April. The company has about 127,000 employees now. Microsoft's stock added 26 cents, or 0.6 percent, to $44.34.

WRONG TURN: AutoNation's second-quarter earnings rose 12 percent, but fell short of Wall Street's expectations. The stock of the nation's largest auto dealership chain fell $4.60, or 7.6 percent, to $56.23.

TROUBLED TOYLAND: Mattel fell 5.9 percent after the toy maker reported that its income plunged 61 percent in the second quarter, weighed down by costs tied to its acquisition of Mega Brands. The stock shed $2.30 to $36.73.

AIRLINE STOCKS SLIDE: Shares in several airline companies tumbled around the time that news reports surfaced about the crash of a Malaysia Airlines passenger plane over Ukraine. The stocks pared some of their losses by midday. American Airlines Group fell $1.41, or 3.3 percent, to $42.03, while Delta Air Lines slid 97 cents, or 2.6 percent, to $36.92. United Continental shed $1.27, or 2.8 percent, to $43.63.

SECTOR VIEW: The 10 sectors in the S&P 500 declined, led by energy stocks. SanDisk fell the most of the 500 stocks in the index, losing 12.3 percent after the flash memory maker issued a disappointing outlook. SanDisk fell $13.30 to $94.46. Humana bucked the trend to lead the index's risers $5.07, or 4 percent, to $132.50.

EUROPE AND ASIA: Global stock markets were mixed. Britain's FTSE 100 rose 1.1 percent, while the CAC-40 in France slipped 0.4 percent. Germany's DAX eased 0.3 percent. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 edged down 0.1 percent. Hong Kong's Hang Seng was flat and China's Shanghai Composite fell 0.6 percent.

BONDS AND OIL: Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.48 percent from 2.53 percent late Wednesday. Benchmark U.S. crude oil for August delivery jumped $1.66 to $102.84 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.