Stocks fell Thursday as mixed economic news and hints of higher interest rates from Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan weighed on equities.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended down 80.62 points, or 0.7 percent, to close at 10,754.26. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index fell 9.59 points, or 0.8 percent, ending at 1,200.75. The Nasdaq Composite Index dipped 26.09 points, or 1.3 percent, at 2,061.34.
Jobless claims were down for a third straight week, the Labor Department reported, as the number of people filing for unemployment benefits dropped to the lowest level in more than four years.
In another report, the price of goods imported to the U.S. rose a higher-than-expected 0.9 percent in January, driven by higher petroleum costs. Wall Street analysts had expected a 0.7 percent rise in import prices after declines in November and December.
Separately, the Index of Leading Economic Indicators, a closely watched gauge of future U.S. economic activity, slipped a more-than-expected 0.3 percent in January, indicating potential weakness in the economy in coming months. The Conference Board, a private research group, said the index declined to 115.6 last month after rising a revised 0.3 percent to 115.9 in December .
In his second day of testimony before Congress, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said interest rates were "fairly low," a signal to many investors that rates will keep rising. Greenspan also said that inflation, while not an immediate threat, remains something policymakers must guard against.
Among local public companies, shares of Stamps.com Inc. soared 16.5 percent to close at $18.18 after the L.A.-based Internet postage company released earnings. The company reported fourth-quarter net income of $1.5 million (6 cents per diluted share), compared with a net loss of $2.7 million (12 cents) for the like period a year earlier. Revenues rose 83 percent to $11.7 million.
Univision Communications Inc. edged up 0.4 percent to $27.70 after the L.A.-based Spanish-language broadcaster announced that its board approved the repurchase of up to $500 million of its Class A common stock. The buyback will expire Dec. 31.
On the down side, DaVita Inc. lost 1.6 percent to $42.25 after the El Segundo-based dialysis services provider's stock rating was downgraded by Wachovia Securities and Morgan Stanley. Wachovia cut the stock to "market perform" from "outperform" and Morgan Stanley cut it to "equalweight" from "overweight."
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