(By Balachander) U.S. stocks closed in red as investors weighed comments from the European Central Bank (ECB) President Mario Draghi amid mixed economic readings and earnings reports.
The S&P 500 Index fell 0.18 percent to end at 1,509.39. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 0.30 percent to finish at 13,944.05. The Nasdaq Composite Index retreated 0.11 percent to close at 3,165.13.
Draghi said the recent appreciation in the euro is a sign of improving confidence in the in the region's finances. "The exchange rate is not a policy target, but it is important for growth and price stability," Draghi said.
The ECB, as expected, kept the benchmark interest rate at a record low 0.75 percent for the seventh consecutive month.
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On the domestic economic front, the number of Americans who continued to receive jobless benefits rose more than forecast last week, a government data showed. Jobless claims declined 5,000 to 366,000 for the week ended Feb. 2 from a revised 371,000, while economists projected 360,000 applications.
In other data, nonfarm business sector labor productivity fell at a 2.0 percent annual rate for the fourth quarter, also coming in worser than economists expectations of a 1.3 percent drop. Unit labor costs in nonfarm businesses gained 4.5 percent, better than expectations of a rise of 3.0 percent.
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Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ: YHOO) gained 2.37 percent after Pivotal Research upgraded the stock to Buy from Hold.
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News Corp. (NASDAQ: NWSA) lost 2.34 percent. The media company posted its second-quarter results and expects operating income to rise by a mid-to high- single-digit percentage for the full year.
Cognizant Technology Solutions Corp. (NASDAQ: CTSH) posted a jump in quarterly earnings on a double-digit growth in revenue and the IT services provider offered guidance that came in above market expectations. Shares rose 2.94 percent.
Sprint Nextel Corp. (NYSE: S) fell 0.52 percent after the company posted a quarterly loss of $1.3 billion amid an increase in operating expenses and revenue growth. Sprint Nextel reported losing a total of 337,000 wireless subscribers in the fourth quarter.
Akamai Technologies Inc. (NASDAQ: AKAM) plunged 15.20 percent after the cloud infrastructure services provider posted weaker-than-expected quarterly revenue.
Ann Inc. (NYSE: ANN) plunged 7.93 percent after the retailer of women's apparel slashed its sales guidance for the fourth quarter and full year, citing Hurricane Sandy and margin pressure.
Scripps Networks Interactive Inc. (NYSE: SNI) declined 3.68 percent after the company's fourth quarter results missed market expectations.
Yelp Inc. (NYSE: YELP) dropped 4.60 percent after the company posted a wider-than-expected loss for the fourth quarter as costs and expenses jumped.
European markets ended mixed, with Germany's DAX inching up 0.13 percent to close at 7,590.85. France's CAC40 shed 1.15 percent to finish at 3,601.05. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 lost 1.06 percent to end at 6,228.42.
Among Asian markets, China's Shanghai Stock Exchange Composite Index fell 0.66 percent to close at 2,418.53. Japan's Nikkei 225 shed 0.93 percent to finish at 11,357.07. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index lost 0.34 percent to end at 23,177. India's BSE Sensex ended 0.30 percent lower at 19,580.32.
Commodity & Currency Scan
Crude oil futures dropped 0.87 percent to $95.77 per barrel and natural gas futures lost 3.60 percent to $3.30 per million metric British thermal units. Gold futures shed 0.38 percent to $1,672.40 per ounce while silver futures fell 1.25 percent to $31.48 per ounce.
In the currency market, the euro lost 0.92 percent against the U.S. dollar at 1.3399. The British pound inched up 0.29 percent against the greenback to 1.5708, while the dollar slid 0.05 percent against the Japanese yen to 93.5900.