A muddled start for US stocks; eBay heads lower

MATTHEW CRAFT AP Business Writer Published:

NEW YORK (AP) -- U.S. stock indexes are slipping lower in early trading as investors pick over a mixed batch of corporate earnings reports.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index sank four points, or 0.2 percent, to 1,869 in the first half-hour of trading. The Dow Jones industrial average slipped one point to 16,456 and the Nasdaq composite index lost 30 points, or 0.7 percent, to 4,154.

ICAHN OUT: Ebay's stock dropped on news that Carl Icahn is backing down from his campaign to shake up the company. The e-commerce company has been fighting a push from the activist investor to spin off PayPal, eBay's mobile payment business. Ebay's stock fell $1.57, or 3 percent, to $54.37.

RITE AID: Shares of Rite Aid surged after the retailer turned in quarterly results that topped analysts' expectations. Rite Aid also announced the acquisition of RediClinic and said it plans to expand the Texas chain of health clinics. The company's stock gained 81 cents, or 13 percent, to $7.20.

AND BEYOND: Weaker sales at Bed Bath & Beyond drove the company's stock down $3.76, or 6 percent, to $64.15. The company reported a drop in quarterly revenue and profit late Wednesday. Like many other retailers, Bed Bath & Beyond laid some of the blame on cold winter weather for keeping customers at home.

JOBS: The Labor Department said that the number of people applying for U.S. unemployment benefits dropped to 300,000, the lowest level in nearly seven years. The less-volatile four-week average dropped, too. Fewer Americans sought unemployment benefits last week than at any point since the Great Recession started in December 2007.

ASIA: Stock markets in Hong Kong and Shanghai climbed on plans to link the exchanges, which would expand access to Chinese companies for foreign investors. Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 1.5 percent and the Shanghai Composite added 1.4 percent.

EUROPE: Germany's DAX gained 0.1 percent, and France's CAC-40 fell 0.1 percent. The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares rose 0.4 percent.

BONDS AND COMMODITIES: In government bond trading, the yield on the 10-year Treasury note dipped to 2.68 percent from 2.69 percent late Wednesday. The price of crude oil fell 23 cents to $103.37 a barrel. Gold rose $13.50 to $1,319.30 an ounce.