Stocks Struggle as Home Sales Disappoint

Stocks tried to claw higher Friday but struggled as disappointing reports on new-home sales and durable-goods orders offset and uptick in consumer sentiment.

New home sales rose 0.7 percent in August. It was the fifth straight increase but came as a slight disappointment — economists had expected a 1.6 increase — and July was revised lower.

Keep in mind that economists were also expecting an increase in existing home sales yesterday, and instead saw a decline. That was considered the most important factor in turning the stock market's gains into losses.

And orders for long-lasting goods such as cars and refrigerators unexpectedly fell 2.4 percent.

The University of Michigan reported its gauge of consumer sentiment rose to 73.5 at the end of September, the highest since January 2008, from 65.7 in August.

Stocks also faced pressure after a disappointing earnings report from a technology leader.

Blackberry maker Research In Motionbeat its earnings targetbut missed the mark on sales and shares fell about 10 percent after-hours. The stock had risen nearly 20 percent since July amid hopes that the recovery would spur business and consumer spending on technology.

Elsewhere in tech, Hewlett-Packard said it expects to hit earnings and revenue targetsanalysts expect in the next fiscal year.

Ford Motor said it expects to return to profitability in 2011 and will build a new $490 million plant in China to capitalize on expanded opportunities there.

KBHome reported its loss narrowed but the homebuilder's CEO said he doesn't see "meaningful improvement" in the housing market in the near future.

Goldman Sachs could get a boost from new over-the-counter derivative and commodity trading rules, a Citigroup analyst said.

And Allos Therapeutic shares jumped after the small-cap drugmaker received FDA approval for its lymphoma treatment Folotyn.

Wall Street's September rally has moved to the sidelines, at least for now, with stocks posting modest losses in each of the last two sessions.

That also puts the major averages on pace for their first weekly loss in three as investors head into the Friday trading session. However, the Dow, the S&P 500, and the Nasdaq remain higher for the month of September, bucking historical trends that usually see this month as the worst one of the year for stocks.

Thursday's trading turned on an unexpected drop in existing home sales, and there are a few key numbers on today's calendar which may also be market movers.

Fed Governor Kevin Warsh will deliver the keynote address to the Chicago Federal Reserve Bank's international banking conference in Chicago at 1:15 pm.

- Peter Schacknow contributed to this report.

Still to Come:

FRIDAY: G-20 meeting continues; consumer sentiment; new-home sales

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