Stocks fall as retailers, economic data disappoint

KEN SWEET AP Markets Writer Published:

NEW YORK (AP) -- U.S. stocks retreated sharply in Thursday morning trading, as disappointing economic data and a couple bad earnings reports from retailers forced investors to seek safety.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average lost 157 points, or 1 percent, to 16,456 as of 11:05 a.m. Eastern time. The fall extended losses from the previous day, and the Dow has slid more than 200 points over that stretch. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 20 points, or 1.1 percent, to 1,868 and the Nasdaq composite slid 46 points, or 1.1 percent, to 4,054.

AVOIDING RISK: The Russell 2000 index, which is made up primarily of smaller, more risky companies, fell more than 1.5 percent, and is trading at its low for the year.

RETAIL ROUT: Wal-Mart Stores fell $1.64, or 2 percent, to $77.10. The company reported a 5 percent profit decline in its most recent quarter and warned that things don't look much better this quarter. The company, like many other retailers, blamed harsh winter weather. Department store operator Kohl's also fell sharply after reporting a 15 percent drop in first-quarter earnings. Its comparable-store sales fell 3.4 percent. Analysts were looking for a slight uptick.

FACTORY SLOWDOWN: U.S. industrial production dropped in April, the Federal Reserve said Thursday, possibly due to more bad weather. Production fell by 0.6 percent versus the 0.1 percent gain that economists expected. Factory output, which excludes mines and utilities, fell by 0.4 percent. Another manufacturing-related report, the Philadelphia Fed Index, also came in short of expectations.

PRICE POP: U.S. consumer prices rose at their fastest pace in nearly a year in April, the Labor Department said Thursday. The consumer price index, an often-quoted barometer of inflation in the U.S., rose by 0.3 percent last month due to higher food and gas prices. Inflation is on pace to rise 2 percent this year. While not alarming, it is noticeably higher than it was a year ago.

JOBS JOBS JOBS: One positive economic report was jobless claims. The Labor Department says the number of people who filed for unemployment benefits fell to its lowest level in seven years last week. Weekly unemployment benefit applications fell by 24,000 to 297,000. Economists had predicted a much smaller drop in jobless claims applications.

BUYING SAFETY: With stocks selling off, investors bought bonds. The yield on the U.S. 10-year note fell below 2.5 percent for the first time this year.

CISCO SURGE: Telecommunications equipment maker Cisco jumped $1.67, or 7 percent, to $24.44. Cisco reported an adjusted profit of 51 cents a share, three cents better than expectations.