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Dow Sheds 0.5% After Housing Report

Stocks retreated Tuesday after several earnings reports beat expectations but economic numbers missed their targets.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average shed 50.71, 0.5 percent, but still held above 10,000. The S&P 500and Nasdaq each lost about 0.6 percent.

Of 10 key S&P indexes, utilities and materials were the biggest decliners, down more than 1 percent. Information-technology was the best performer, finishing flat.

Putting a damper on the market was this morning's economic news: Readings on both PPI and housing starts missed expectations. Producer prices dropped by 0.6 percent in September, more than the 0.3-percent drop economists had expected. Housing starts rose 0.5 percent last month, less than the 2.8-percent increase expected.

Housing starts were the bigger disappointment. The recent rebound in building activity seems to be fading amid uncertainty over whether the government will extend the first-time homebuyer's tax credit. Starts are expected to be weaker yet in October, given the drop in building permits.

"We remain optimistic for 2010 but the next couple of months will be tricky," Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics, wrote in a note to clients.

Plus, analysts chalked up some of the day's losses to profit-taking after the recent rally. Major indexes soared to new highs for the year on Monday. The S&P 500 cracked 1,100 intraday Monday for the first time since October 3, 2008, though it did not finish there. The Nasdaq logged its highest close since September 26, 2008.

Earnings were a bright spot but not enough to overcome the economic news.

Caterpillar led Dow gainers, up 3 percent, after the construction-equipment maker smashed analyst estimates with profit of 64 cents. It also raised its full-year outlook, saying it's seeing signs of recovery.

Pfizer beat on both earnings and revenue— even though revenue declined from a year earlier. Aggressive cost-cutting measures helped offset a negative impact of exchange rates and sliding drug sales amid generic competition. Its shares had initially risen after the report but ended down 0.3 percent.

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  • Dow components Coca-Cola and DuPont skidded after their results. Coke beat on earnings but missed its revenue target. DuPont beat expectations on earnings but missed on revenue and narrowed its earnings outlook for the year. Coke's stock lost 1.3 percent, while DuPont shed 2.2 percent.

    Boeing , Home Depot and DuPont were the biggest drags on the Dow.

    Over on the Nasdaq, Apple shares surged more than 5 percent after the iPod and iPhone maker blew past earnings and revenue expectations. The company said it earned $1.82 a share on revenue of $9.87 billion. Analysts polled by Reuters had expected earnings of $1.42 a share on revenue of $9.21 billion.

    Analysts said the earnings indicate that consumer spending is coming back. Apple was also upbeat about the holiday season, which is usually a blockbuster quarter for the company. Analysts seemed to agree.

    "These are huge numbers ... Apple is probably the best growth story in tech, maybe one of the best growth stocks in the market. I bet this stock can go to $250 in six to nine months," Jane Snorek, analyst at First American Funds, told Reuters. "Usually Christmas and back-to-school are correlated and Apple usually has a gigantic Christmas quarter. This makes me think Apple will have a great Christmas."

    Giving a boost to chips, Texas Instrumentsbeat on both earnings and revenue, saying its customers are starting to build inventory again. Shares rose 0.6 percent.

    This came after chip leader Intel beat on both profit and revenue last week, saying its seeing stronger PC demand and signs of improvement in business spending.

    Yahoo slipped 0.3 percent in regular trading ahead of earnings from the Internet portal, but rose in after-hours trading after the company beat on earnings and hit analysts' revenue target.

    So far, about 100 of the S&P 500 companies have reported earnings; 79 percent have beaten expectations, while 11 missed.

    Crude oil fell more than 50 cents, settling at $79.09 a barrel, after topping $80 intraday.

    On the M&A front, staffing company Adecco is buying MPS Group for $1.3 billion or $13.80 a share, a 24 percent premium over the most recent close for MPS.

    Morgan Stanley is selling its retail asset management division to Invesco for $1.5 billion — that division includes both the Morgan Stanley and Van Kampen brand names. Morgan Stanley will get a 9.4 percent stake in Invesco.

    Volume was slightly below average, with about 1.24 billion shares changing hands on the New York Stock Exchange. Decliners outpaced advancers, roughly 2 to 1.

    Still to Come:

    WEDNESDAY: Weekly mortgage apps; weekly crude inventories; Fed's beige book; Fed's Rosengren speaks; Earnings from Boeing, Eli Lilly, Wells Fargo, Altria, AMR, Continental, Morgan Stanley, USBancorp and eBay
    THURSDAY: Weekly jobless claims; leading indicators; Fed's Rosengren, Lockhart and Dudley speak; Earnings from AT&T, Bristol-Myers, McDonald's, Merck, MMM, Travelers, UPS, Schering-Plough, Xerox, Amazon, AmEx, Braodcom and Capital One
    FRIDAY: Fed chief Bernanke speaks; existing-home sales; Fed's Kohn speaks; Earnings from Microsoft, Honeywell and Ingersoll-Rand

    Send comments to cindy.perman@nbcuni.com.