NEW YORK -- A mixed batch of earnings and economic reports pulled the stock market lower on Thursday. Google plunged 9 percent after it accidentally released a weak earnings report hours ahead of schedule.
The Dow fell 16 points to 13,541 as of 2:30 p.m. The Standard & Poor's 500 index slipped five points to 1,459.
"This is a market that's waiting for a clear catalyst," said Quincy Krosby, market strategist at Prudential Financial. What investors most want, she said, is a sense of direction. They hope companies will lay out clearly where earnings and the economy are headed.
"We basically know what happened in the last quarter," Krosby said. "What we're looking for is what's next: Are we turning a corner? Will demand pick up at the end of the year?"
Google's stock dropped $68.19 to $687.30 before trading was suspended. The company's earnings, which fell far short of analysts' forecasts, were supposed to be released after the market closed.
Falling prices for Internet advertisements and a loss from Motorola Mobility weighed on Google's earnings. The company blamed the publisher R.R. Donnelley for filing a draft of its quarterly report. The publisher's stock lost 1 percent, or 14 cents, to $10.71.
Facebook, which also relies on Internet ads, took a turn lower after Google released results. Its stock fell 87 cents, to $19.00.
Google's fall helped tug the Nasdaq composite down 34 points to 3,070.
American Express reported quarterly revenue late Wednesday that fell short of Wall Street's expectations even though earnings were in line. Amex said card holders' rate of spending has slowed in recent months. Its stock lost $1.59 to $57.78.
Strong profits for the insurer Travelers sent its stock up 4 percent. The company said Thursday that claims from catastrophes plunged compared to the same quarter last year, which helped earnings double. Travelers' stock gained $2.78 to $74.16.
BB&T bank, Philip Morris International and Boston Scientific all fell after reporting results that fell short of forecasts. Microsoft is scheduled to post earnings after the market closes.
Analysts expect S&P 500 companies to say that overall earnings shrank in the third quarter, according to S&P Capital IQ. That would be the first drop in exactly three years.
Weekly applications for unemployment benefits surged to a four-month high, a sharp rise from the previous week. The increase suggested rising layoffs, but the Labor Department pointed to technical reasons behind the swing, mainly delayed figures from one large state, California.
Better earnings from Johnson & Johnson and other companies, along with encouraging reports on industrial production and the housing market, have pushed the stock market higher this week. The Dow is up 1.6 percent and the S&P 500 index up 1.9 percent for the week.
In other trading, the yield on the 10-year Treasury note was 1.82 percent, the same as it was late Wednesday.
Among other stocks making big moves:
_ EBay jumped $2.10 to $50.30 after posting better net income and sales late Wednesday, thanks to more revenue from its PayPal payments service and its online markets. The company also raised its full-year estimates for earnings and sales.
_ Verizon Communications surged 99 cents to $45.71. The company said its wireless division, partially owned by Vodafone Group, signed up more customers in the quarter. Verizon said its customers also added more devices to its Share Everything plan.