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Stocks Edge Downwards on Mix of Economic Data and Housing Sales

Stocks slip after mixed economic reports cast favorable light on the labor market while illustrating the economy expanded less than economists expected.
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Stocks slipped on Thursday after mixed economic reports cast a favorable light on the labor market while also illustrating the economy expanded less than economists expected at the end of last year.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed unofficially just 4 points lower, the S&P 500 lost 3 points and the Nasdaq was down 22 points.

The Commerce Department reported gross domestic product grew 2.6 percent in the final three months of last year, better than the 2.4 percent rate projected in February. But economists polled by Reuters had expected fourth-quarter GDP growth would be raised to a 2.7 percent rate. The economy expanded at a 4.1 percent pace in the July-September quarter.

Separately, numbers from the Labor Department had jobless claims falling by 10,000 to 3111,000 last week, a level that has it at a near four-month low. Also, the National Association of Realtors reported pending home sales fell for an eighth month in February, with sales down 10.5 percent from a year ago.

"A lot of the macro data points are firming and confirm the January-February slowdown was weather related. The counter headwind is that investor sentiment is pretty elevated, and we would view that as a contrary indicator," said Jim Russell, senior equity strategist for US Bank Wealth Management.

Citigroup shares fell over 5 percent after its capital plan did not pass stress tests by the Federal Reserve; King Digital Entertainment, maker of the mobile game Candy Crush, fell over 2 percent, one day after dropping 15 percent on its debut as a public company.

The dollar edged higher against the currencies of major U.S. trading partners; the yield on the 10-year Treasury note used in figuring mortgage rates and consumer loans fell 1 basis point to 2.679 percent.

Falling under $1,300 for the first time since the middle of last month, gold futures shed $8.70, to close at $1,294.70 an ounce, while oil added $1.02, or 1 percent, to $101.28 a barrel.