April 18, 2013 at 4:01 PM ET
Stocks extended their losses for a second day Thursday, dragged by health care and techs, after a batch of economic data that missed projections and mixed earnings reports.
Stocks gyrated in a wide range this week, with all three major benchmark indexes suffering their sharpest one-day drop of the year on Monday, before recovering most of those losses on Tuesday. However, after Wednesday's steep declines, stocks are on track for their worst weekly losses of the year.
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"You can tell equity investors are on edge and looking for a reason, almost any reason, to take a little money off the table," wrote Scott Wren, senior equity strategist at Wells Fargo Advisors. "A series of worse than expected economic reports out of China, Europe and the U.S. over the last handful of trading days has taken some of the enthusiasm out of the market."
The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished in the red, led by UnitedHealth and Bank of America, while Verizon gained.
Among key S&P sectors, health careand techs led the decliners, while telecoms gained.
Apple slid after the tech giant tumbled more than 5 percent in the previous session, breaking below $400 a share for the first time since December 2011, amid worries over second-quarter iPad mini shipments and after one of its suppliers reported an inventory glut that suggests iPhone sales may fall short of expectations.
With Apple's recent declines, oil company Exxon Mobil is once again the world's most valuable company in terms of market cap.
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Earnings again were a mixed bag, with surging big-bank profits still not enough to quell investor appetite in the financial sector but the news good in most other areas.
Morgan Stanley reported quarterly results that topped expectations, thanks to strong gains in its global wealth management and securities units. However, revenue from fixed income and commodities trading fell from a year earlier, reflecting declines in commodities and rates. Shares declined, also dragging other major banks including Bank of America and Goldman Sachs.
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PepsiCo edged higher after the beverage company also posted better-than-expected quarterly earnings and revenue. The company also stood by its full-year forecast.
Also, Verizon gained after the telecommunications company topped earnings estimates, but revenue fell slightly below expectations.
Peabody Energy soared after the coal miner posted a smaller-than-expected loss, but revenue fell just shy of analysts' expectations.
Meanwhile, UnitedHealth edged past earnings expectations, but shares declined sharply as the health care company said that a major public-sector customer had switched to a fee-based insurance service from a full-risk plan in the first quarter and lowered its 2013 sales guidance. Rivals Aetna, Humana andWellpoint also traded lower.
SeaWorld Entertainment raised the number of shares to be offered in its IPO to 26 million. The company plans to list its shares on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol "SEAS."
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On the economic front, weekly jobless claims gained 4,000 to a seasonally adjusted 352,000, according to the Labor Department. A Labor Department analyst said claims for California and Kentucky had been estimated.Economists polled by Reuters expected a reading of 350,000 new claims, up from 346,000 in the previous week.
Also on the economic front, business activity in the mid-Atlantic region expanded at a smaller-than-expected rate, according to the Philadelphia Fed survey. And a gauge of future U.S. economic activity dipped in March for the first time in seven months, according to the Conference Board.
"We are sticking with our long-held estimate that American economy will grow a modest 2.5 percent this year," according to Wren. "We continue to view pullbacks in the stock market as opportunities...right now some of the domestic and international data suggest that we may be experiencing a bout of turbulence, [but] the S&P 500 will likely end the year higher than current levels."
In Europe, Italy's parliament voted on Thursday to find a successor to President Giorgio Napolitano, whose mandate expires on May 15.
Napolitano has made little headway in breaking a political deadlock since February's inconclusive general election and the successful presidential candidate is set to inherit the country's political impasse. Analysts expect new elections within the year if the deadlock is not overcome soon.
Meanwhile, G20 (Group of 20) finance ministers and central bankers will meet in Washington, where they are expected to confirm a February pledge to avoid competitive devaluations, according to Reuters. The gathering takes place shortly before the Spring meetings of the IMF and the World Bank in Washington.
—By CNBC's JeeYeon Park (Follow JeeYeon on Twitter: @JeeYeonParkCNBC)
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