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Stocks pull plug on 2-day rise; sag on poor Best Buy sales, earnings

Stocks closed mostly lower on Thursday, with the S&P 500 slipping from its record, as Best Buy shares fell sharply and Wall Street stalwarts Goldman Sachs and Citigroup reported disappointing quarterly results.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average, which had triple-digit rises the two previous days, fell 64 points. UnitedHealth Group paced blue-chip losses that extended to 22 of its 30 components.

The S&P 500 also lost round, closing 2 points down, but the Nasdaq ended with a slight 3-point gain.

"The market is searching for what the trend line is for the fourth-quarter earnings releases; the earnings we've seen so far I'd call mixed," said Jim Russell, senior equity strategist for US Bank Wealth Management. "There's a shift from the rising tide lifting all boats in 2013 related to the Fed policy of QE to much more disparity between winners and losers, which we're starting to see in the retail area and the financial area. Some are able to execute in this slow-growth environment, others maybe not," Russell added.

Goldman Sachs dropped 2 percent after reporting a 21 percent drop in quarterly profit and Citigroup stock fell 1 percent on lower-than-expected quarterly profit.

Best Buy declined 28 percent after the consumer-electronics chain reported a big slump in holiday sales.

The retail sales report earlier in the week "showed the economy was moving forward, driven by two-thirds of the economy, which is the consumer," said Andrew Wilkinson, chief market analyst at Interactive Brokers. But within that report, department stores proved to be one of the few areas with a year-over-year decline, which Wilkinson said "comes back to bite us today with the news from Best Buy."

But the trend "is not symptomatic of the health of the consumer, but that people are continuing to migrate to online purchases," said Wilkinson.

Thursday's fall is in large part a consolidation of the gains that came the prior two days, both Russell and Wilkinson said.

The dollar fell against other global currencies and the 10-year Treasury yield declined by 5 basis points to 2.846 percent.

On the New York Mercantile Exchange, crude-oil futures for February delivery lost 21 cents, or 0.2 percent, to $93.96 a barrel. Gold futures for February delivery rose $1.90, or 0.2 percent, to finish at $1,240.20 an ounce.

Economic reports Thursday showed fewer Americans filing applications for jobless benefits last week, and the cost of living climbing 0.3 percent in December, the largest increase since June. And, the National Association of Home Builders reported confidence among home builders declined a bit in January after spiking in December, while the Philadelphia Fed's manufacturing index edged higher to 9.4 in January from a revised 6.4 the prior month.