US stocks decline; Nasdaq Composite manages third weekly gain
U.S. stocks fell on Friday, with the Nasdaq Composite posting a third weekly gain, as investors considered results from companies including Intuit and another downbeat economic report, this one on housing.
Economic activity is "borderline bad, when you look at China and some of the data out of the United States. Everybody is blaming the weather, but we won't know for another month or two, when the snow melts and you start to see all the garbage underneath," said Paul Nolte, a senior vice president and portfolio manager at Kingsview Asset Management.
Intuit rose after that software maker posted second-quarter profit that topped expectations. Amazon.com fell after the Wall Street Journal cited people familiar with the matter in reporting the online retailer had discussions on whether to add brands including Ralph Lauren.
Hewlett-Packard erased gains that came after the maker of personal computers reported sales and profit that beat estimates. Priceline.com also posted results that topped expectations. Groupon fell after the deals website offered a profit outlook below expectations.
After rising 58 points and falling 34, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 29.93 points, or 0.2 percent, to 16,103.30, with Verizon Communications leading blue-chip losses that extended to 17 of its 30 components. It declined 0.3 percent for the week.
Down 0.1 percent from the week-ago close, the S&P 500 dropped 3.53 points, or 0.2 percent, to 1,836.25, with telecommunications and energy the hardest hit and consumer discretionary and utilities faring best among its 10 major industry groups.
The Nasdaq shed 4.13 points, or 0.1 percent, to 4,263.41, up 0.5 percent for the week.
Advancers remained ahead of decliners on the New York Stock Exchange, where nearly 809 million shares traded. Composite volume neared 3.4 billion.
Sales of existing homes fell last month to their lowest in more than a year, with the National Association of Realtors reporting sales in January fell 5.1 percent versus expectations for a 3.5 percent drop.
"Investors are willing to cut the market some slack because of the weather; I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the economy heats up as the weather warms up," said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at BMO Private Bank.
"Everything is getting swept under the weather rug. We're not building, we're not buying, we're not doing anything. Economic activity has been slowed by the polar vortex. Personally I'm not buying that but it could be part of the reason why stocks are going up," said Nolte.
On Friday, the president and opposition leaders in the Ukraine signed a tentative agreement to end violence in which 77 people were killed, but Nolte downplayed the notion that the deal helped propel stock gains, saying that stocks were not in decline while the bloodshed was occurring.
Equities cut their gains after Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher said he would continue to promote the central bank rolling back on its monthly asset purchases.
The dollar edged higher against the currencies of major U.S. trading partners, and the yield on the 10-year Treasury note used in figuring mortgage rates and other consumer loans shed 2 basis points to 2.734 percent.
"When you look at industry groups, those that did very poorly in 2013 have done well coming out of the box in 2014, and gold is one of them," said Nolte. The metal's rise has little to do with economic data, inflation or the direction of the U.S. dollar, but rather investors "buying a depressed asset class," he said.
On Thursday, stocks rallied as investors ignored a weak report from the Philadelphia Federal Reserve.
—By CNBC's Kate Gibson
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