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Major U.S. stock indexes drifted between gains and losses in morning trading Thursday amid a crop of disappointing corporate earnings. Google, IBM and insurers UnitedHealth and WellPoint were among the big market decliners.
KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index was little changed at 1,862 as of 10:50 a.m. Eastern Time. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 16 points, or 0.1 percent, to 16,407. The Nasdaq composite added six points, or 0.1 percent, to 4,092. U.S. markets will be closed tomorrow for Good Friday.
EARNINGS, THE GOOD: General Electric described the economic situation as "positive" and said its industrial division was doing well. PepsiCo reported higher income as the company slashed costs and sold more snacks around the world. GE gained 46 cents, or 1.8 percent, to $26.59, while PepsiCo added 28 cents to $85.05.
Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley each reported higher income than financial analysts had forecast. Goldman rose $2.07, or 1.3 percent, to $159.29. Morgan Stanley added $1.05, or 3.3 percent, to $30.95.
EARNINGS, THE NOT SO GOOD: Google and IBM each posted steep declines after reporting results late Thursday that disappointed investors. Google lost $19.2, or 3.5 percent, to $543.78 and IBM fell $7.53, or 3.8 percent, to $188.85. Mattel fell 79 cents, or 2.1 percent, to $37.13 after the toy maker said weak sales of Barbie and markdowns to clear out excess inventory left over from a sluggish holiday season led to an unexpected loss in the first three months of the year.
UNHEALTHY RESULTS: Shares in several large health insurance providers tumbled in morning trading after UnitedHealth Group said its income slid 8 percent in the first quarter as fees and funding cuts from the health care overhaul dented the company's performance. UnitedHealth shed $2.81, or 3.6 percent, to $75.40. WellPoint slid $3.60, or 3.7 percent to $92.05, while Humana fell $2.34, or 2.1 percent to $106.50. Aetna dropped $2.32, or 3.3 percent to $67.56.
THE ECONOMY: The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits last week rose 2,000 to 304,000. That was less than analysts were expecting and a sign that layoffs aren't increasing rapidly. The number of weekly claims continues to be near pre-recession levels despite the slight increase.
BOND TRADING: Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.67 percent after reaching 2.63 percent late Wednesday.