Stocks Have Worst Month Since Feb. 2009

Stocks erased their gains Friday and logged their worst month in nearly a year as investors shrugged off some encouraging economic data and techs took another hit.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average shed 53.13, or 0.5 percent, to close at 10,067.33. The S&P 500 dropped 1 percent and the tech-heavy Nasdaq lost 1.5 percent.

Technology was the worst-performing sector, followed by materials and energy.

Today's declined left the Dow and S&P down more than 3 percent for January, their worst monthly performances since Feb. 2009. For the Nasdaq, it was its worst month since Nov. 2008.

There was a trio of upbeat economic news today: Gross domestic product growth rose 5.7 percent in the fourth quarter, and in January, the Chicago PMI jumped to 61.5 and consumer confidence hit a two-year high.

The dollar hit its highest since Auguston the good economic news. Oil settled below $73 a barrel and gold fell to $1,083 an ounce.

But traders were slightly worried about a couple of points in the GDP report: The sharp revision to the prior quarter's growth and consumer spending.

"[T]raders are viewing this [GDP] number with tepid enthusiasm," said Todd M. Schoenberger, managing director of LandColt Trading in San Antonio, Texas. "The biggest disappointment was the print on consumer spending, which only contributed 1.44% to GDP," he said. "Considering 70% of GDP comes from the American consumer, the outlook for future quarters still looks bleak considering the labor situation in the country."

Also weighing on the market were worries about fiscal stability in some European countries, including Greece, Portugal and Spain.

Tech started strong, after earnings beats from both Microsoft and — Microsoft on the strength of the Windows 7 introduction and Amazon on a solid holiday-shopping season — but the gains petered out and Microsoft ended as the biggest drag on the Dow.

The Philadelphia Stock Exchange semiconductor index shed 3.4 percent after a weak outlook from chip maker SanDisk , which fell 12 percent.

Nokia finished lower, even after a vote of confidence from Goldman Sachs. The brokerage raised its price target on the stock after Thursday's earning surprise, though it kept its rating at "neutral."

For the week, Apple was the biggest drag on the Nasdaq as investors sold the stock after a run-up leading up to the debut of its highly-anticipated iPad.

IBM had the most negative impact on the Dow this week.

In today's action, Wal-Mart got a boost after Goldman Sachs raised its rating on the discount giant's stock to "buy," citing expense controls and increased margins among the reasons. It also raised its price target on the stock to $60 from $58.

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Chevron lost 1.5 percent today after the oil giant reported its profit dropped 37 percent, as refining problems offset an increase in oil prices.

Former Dow component Honeywell skidded 3 percent after the company report its profit slipped 1 percent, hurt by weak demand for aviation components and equipment used to heat and cool large buildings.

And Mattel finished off more than 1 percent, even after the compnay beat analyst estimates amid strong sales from its Fashionista Barbie and Hot Wheels lines.

Volume was light, with about 1.58 billion shares changing hands on the New York Stock Exchange. Decliners outpaced advancers, more than 2 to 1.

On Tap for Next Week:

MONDAY: Bank of America/Merrill Lynch trial begins; personal income; construction spending; ISM manufacturing index; Earnings from ExxonMobil, Gannett and Humana
TUESDAY: Academy Award nominees announced; Madoff liquidation hearing; Volcker, Geithner testify; pending-home sales; auto sales; Earnings from BP, UPS (preannouncement), ADP and News Corp.
WEDNESDAY: Weekly mortgage apps; Challenger and ADP job-cuts reports; ISM services index; weekly crude inventories; Fed's Warsh speaks; Earnings from Pfizer, International Paper, Time Warner, Cisco, Visa and Yum Brands
THURSDAY: Senate hearing on NBC-Comcast; Tea Party Convention; chain-store sales; ECB, BOE announcements; weekly jobless claims; factory orders; Earnings from GlaxoSmithKline, Vodafone, Kellogg, MasterCard, Northrop Grmman, Sony, Unilever and Burger King
FRIDAY: Earnings from Aetna and Tyson Foods

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