Updated March 23 at 12:28am
economic indicators

U.S. stocks decline as home sales drop amid corporate earnings


NEW YORK - U.S. stocks fell, after the biggest weekly drop in five months for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index, as sales of previously owned U.S. homes unexpectedly declined in March and investors weighed corporate earnings.

Caterpillar Inc. fluctuated between gains and losses as it cut its 2013 forecast. Halliburton Co. jumped 2.6 percent after reporting first-quarter profit that exceeded analysts’ estimates. Eldorado Gold Corp. gained 4 percent as the price of the precious metal rose. Power-One Inc. soared 56 percent after ABB Ltd. agreed to buy the maker of solar-power inverters for about $1 billion.

The S&P 500 lost 0.3 percent to 1,551.14 at 10:10 a.m. in New York. The gauge fell 2.1 percent last week, its biggest drop since November, as earnings from Bank of America Corp. and International Business Machines Corp. missed estimates. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 51.91 points, or 0.4 percent, to 14,495.60 today. Trading in S&P 500 stocks was 9.2 percent higher than the 30-day average at this time of day.

“We’re in the middle of earnings season and that continues to be a key driver,” Richard Sichel, who oversees about $1.8 billion as chief investment officer at Philadelphia Trust Co., said in a phone interview. “It’s important to us to hear what management teams are saying, how optimistic or pessimistic they sound about future growth.”

Purchases of previously owned houses, tabulated when a contract closes, fell 0.6 percent to a 4.92 million annual rate last month, figures from the National Association of Realtors showed today in Washington. The median forecast of 75 economists surveyed by Bloomberg projected sales would increase to a 5 million rate. Prices climbed, reflecting more demand for higher- priced houses.

Earnings season

Eight S&P 500 companies including Netflix Inc. and Texas Instruments Inc. post their quarterly earnings today. Of the 106 that have reported so far, 72 percent have exceeded analysts’ predictions for earnings, data compiled by Bloomberg show. Profit at S&P 500 companies dropped 1.1 percent in the first three months of the year, according to forecasts compiled by Bloomberg. That would mark the first year-over-year decrease since 2009.

The S&P 500 has surged 129 percent from a 12-year low in 2009 as the Federal Reserve embarked on three rounds of bond purchases to stimulate the economy.

New York Fed Bank President William C. Dudley said European economic weakness and U.S. budget woes mean “more needs to be done” to shore up the global economy and financial regulation.

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