Stocks Close Lower

Fed Chairman Greenspan's second day of testimony to Congress offered little new information on the economy

Major U.S. stock indexes closed at session lows Thursday, as investors sifted through a batch of mixed economic data. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan's second day of testimony to Congress offered little new insight into monetary policy or the economy, according to Standard and Poor's Marketscope.

On Thursday, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 80.62 points, or 0.74%, to 10,754.26. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index dropped 9.59 points, or 0.79%, to 1,200.75. The Nasdaq composite index lost 26.09 points, or 1.25%, to 2,061.34.

Looking ahead to Friday, among the companies reporting results is the Campbell Soup (CPB ).

In economic news Friday, the producer price index, a gauge of wholesale inflation, is expected to increase 0.3% for January, up from the revised 0.3% drop in December. The University of Michigan's monthly gauge on consumer sentiment is expected to come in at 95.3, down from January's 95.5, according to Action Economics' survey of economists.

In economic news Thursday, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan addressed the House Financial Services Committee, following up his appearance yesterday before the Senate Banking Committee. Greenspan's reiterated comments he made yesterday that the federal funds rate remains "fairly low."

Leading economic indicators fell 0.3% in January, following a revised 0.3% increase in December, according to a report released Thursday by the private research group the Conference Board. Economists were expecting a decline of 0.2% in the index, which is designed to predict economic activity in the coming three to six months.

Data on initial jobless claims for the week ended Feb. 12 showed unexpected strength in the labor market. The number of claims fell to 302,000 from the previous week's revised number of 304,000, when economists were forecasting an increase to 320,000.

The price of imported goods rose a higher-than-expected 0.9% in January, thanks in large part to higher fuel costs, according to a Labor Department report released Thursday. Import prices, which are seen as an indicator of inflationary trends, were expected to rise 0.7%, after a 1.4% decline in December. Export prices rose 0.7%.

Crude oil futures closed lower Thursday, likely because of profit-taking after Wednesday's price increase on fears of an OPEC production cut, according to Action Economics. Crude oil futures settled on the New York Mercantile Exchange down 1.6% lower at $47.54 a barrel.

In earnings news, Wal-Mart (WMT ) posted a slightly better-than-expected 16% increase in fiscal fourth-quarter earnings, supported by a 1.5% increase in U.S. same-store sales. The world's largest retailer's net income increased from $2.72 billion to $3.16 billion, and revenue increased from $75.19 billion to $83.02 billion. Its shares closed slightly higher.

Target (TGT ), the U.S. second-largest discount retailer, also reported that its profits in its fiscal fourth-quarterly report modestly beat expectations. The company's profit edged up from $823 million, or 90 cents a share, in the period last year, to $825 million, or 91 cents a share. Its shares closed up 2%.

A week after its CEO Carly Fiorina was ousted, Hewlett-Packard (HPQ ) posted a rise in quarterly profit that was slightly higher than most analysts expected. After the bell Wednesday, the company reported that net income for the first fiscal quarter rose to $943 million from $936 million last year. Excluding special items, the profit was 37 cents a share, up from 35 cents in the period last year. Its shares closed slightly.

In its Wall Street debut Thursday, Dolby Laboratories (DLB) saw its shares jump from the initial offering of $18 to as high as $25.45. The audio engineering company sold 27.5 million shares on the New York Stock Exchange, where they were the biggest gainers by percentage. The shares closed at $24.30.

Soft-drink giant Coca-Cola Co. (KO ) Thursday raised its quarterly dividend 12% to 28 cents a share, because of confidence in its long-term cash flow. Its stock closed slightly lower.

Treasury Market

Long-dated Treasuries, which fell yesterday in response to Greenspan's comments, were lower Thursday, suggesting that concerns over rate hikes is still fresh. At the end of the session, the yield on the 10-year note was 4.18%.

World Markets

European stock markets closed higher Thursday. In London, the Financial Times-Stock Exchange 100 added 4.20 points, or 0.08%, to close at 5,057.40. Gainers included Cairn Energy and publishing group Reed Elsevier.

Germany's DAX index gained 0.91 points, or 0.02%, to close virtually flat at 4,369.68. Deutsche Boerse was among the gainers after UBS and HVB raised their price target ahead of the company's results next week

In Paris, the CAC 40 index fell 3.52 points, or 0.09%, to close at 4,005.50. France Telecom and tech stocks STM and Alcatel put pressure on the index.

Asian markets closed lower Thursday. Japan's Nikkei-225 index fell 18.96 points, or 0.16%, to close at 11,582.72.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng dropped 47.67 points, or 0.34%, to close at 13,967.82.

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