Midday Market Update: Stocks Head Lower on Weak First Quarter Earnings

By Jennifer Yousfi
Managing Editor

U.S. markets dropped on a disappointing initial round of first-quarter earnings.

At midday in New York, the blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Average Index was down 45.43 points (-0.36%), to trade at 12,567.00. The tech-laden Nasdaq Composite Index decreased 12.87 points (-0.54%), to reach 2,351.96. And the broader Standard & Poor's 500 Index shed 5.84 points (-0.43%), to hit 1,366.70.

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"We'll be lucky to see earnings be flat for the year and we'll probably see earnings decline," Steven Bleiberg, who helps manage about $6 billion as head of global investment strategy at Legg Mason Asset Management (LM) in New York, said in an interview with Bloomberg Television. "Ultimately you've got to have earnings growth, that's the driver, and I just don't see it happening. There are so many negative signs out there."

Washington Mutual Inc. (WM) led financial shares lower as the thrift was forced to slash its dividend even after a $7 billion cash infusion, which was more than the $5 billion expected.

Aluminum manufacturer Alcoa Inc. (AA) dropped after announcing a 50% reduction in earnings after Monday's close. Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD) shares dropped after announcing a 22% decline in sales.

"Ultimately we're still in a bear market, and it's going to take some more digestion and some more sideways movement to get out," Doug Sandler, chief equity officer at Riverfront Investment Group, told MarketWatch.

In overseas markets, Japan's Nikkei Index reversed Monday's gains with a loss of 199.80 points to close at 13,250.43. Hong Kong's blue-chip Hang Seng Index had a 267.07-point decline, to close at 24,311.69.

European bourses were down with the Paris-based CAC40, London's FTSE 100, Madrid's IBEX 35 and the Frankfurt-based DAX all posting losses.

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