by Marc Bastow | May 24, 2012 4:59 pm
Stocks started the day lower as investors reacted to lackluster U.S. economic data and ongoing concerns about Europe’s debt crisis and the risk of Greece exiting the eurozone, but made an abrupt U-turn late in the afternoon, sending stocks on a steady ride up to the close, narrowing losses on the way.
By the end of the trading day, the Dow finished 0.27% higher at 12,529, the S&P eked out a 0.14 % gain to finish at 1,320, and the Nasdaq couldn’t recover, closing at 2,839, down 0.38%.
The number of Americans filing for first-time unemployment benefits held near the 370,000 mark for a fourth week, signaling companies probably increased hiring only slightly in May. Durable good orders only rose 0.2%, less than economists were expecting. Excluding transportation goods, orders unexpectedly dropped 0.6%, compared to forecasts for a modest gain.
Worries about weakness in the technology sector accounted for much of the early losses, as last night’s warnings of slower growth by Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) combined with similar warnings over the past two weeks from Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO) and Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) weighed on investors’ minds. However, HPQ itself finished the day up almost 3% thanks to an the earnings beat, and Intel finished up fractionally. Cisco could not shake the sentiment, though, ending down 2%.
Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) shares stabilized as the stock ended higher for the second straight day, up 1.5% despite growing class lawsuits against multiple parties involved in the IPO. Meanwhile, social sectormate LinkedIn (NYSE:LNKD) hit the skids at the start of the day and finished down 5%, finishing at just over $98 per share.
On the earnings front, big-box retailer Costco (NASDAQ:COST) saw sales and net income increase year-over-year and beat analyst estimates, and shareholders were mildly rewarded with a 1.3% gain on the day. H.J. Heinz (NYSE:HNZ) shares traded lower despite posting better-than-expected 4Q 2012 adjusted earnings of 81 cents per share, exceeding expectations of 79 cents. Heinz ended the day down fractionally.
Not so fortunate was NetApp (NASDAQ:NTAP), whose shares sank 12% on the day, marking the day’s worst S&P 500 performance, after yesterday’s earnings report showed profits of 66 cents per share, less than expectations for 63 cents. NetApp also provided negative forward guidance. Storage maker and rival EMC (NYSE:EMC) plunged more than 5% on the news as well.
Marc Bastow is an Assistant Editor at InvestorPlace.com. As of this writing, he was long INTC.
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