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Stocks fall on company earnings, overseas trouble

By Ken Sweet

Associated Press

Published: Friday, Jan. 31 2014 12:53 p.m. MST

Trader Robert Hannan works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange Friday, Jan. 31, 2014. Stocks fell sharply in early trading Friday, as investors fretted over disappointing earnings from companies like Amazon.com and more trouble in overseas markets.

Richard Drew, Associated Press

NEW YORK — Disappointing results from Amazon.com and more trouble in overseas markets sent U.S. stocks lower Friday afternoon.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average fell 113 points, or 0.7 percent, to 15,735 as of 12:55 p.m. Eastern time. The Standard & Poor's 500 dropped eight points, or 0.4 percent, to 1,786 and the Nasdaq composite slipped 13 points, or 0.3 percent, to 4,109.

GLOOMY JANUARY: Friday's sell-off only adds to a tough January for investors. The Dow is down 5.1 percent, while the S&P 500 has fallen 3.4 percent. Still, both indexes only recently hit all-time highs and aren't close to a correction, a Wall Street term for a decline of 10 percent or more from a peak.

SOME OPTIMISM: The Dow had been down more than 220 points earlier in the day, so Friday's losses have been cut roughly in half. Traders said this type of trading has happened several times this month.

"There's still a large group of investors who ... think this market has legs in it and are using any pullback as a buying opportunity," said Jonathan Corpina, a floor trader on the New York Stock Exchange with Meridian Equity Partners.

EUROPE SLUGGISH: An unexpected fall in eurozone inflation showed the recovery is still weak there. Official figures Friday showed the inflation rate in the 18-country eurozone dropped to 0.7 percent in December from 0.9 percent the previous month. That decline has reinforced fears that the eurozone is about to suffer a Japanese-style bout of deflation, which can be very difficult to reverse.

MORE TROUBLE FOR EMERGING MARKETS: The currencies for several countries fell against the dollar early as turmoil in emerging markets continued. By early afternoon, the Turkish lira was down 0.5 percent against the dollar and the South African rand lost 0.7 percent.

'EXCUSE' TO SELL: "Even if there is a problem with these emerging market economies, we have plenty of evidence that shows that it doesn't heavily impact the economic momentum of the U.S. and it only mildly impacts earnings for U.S. companies," said David Kelly, chief market strategist with J.P. Morgan Funds. "People were looking for an excuse to sell."

RETAIL STRUGGLES: Amazon.com fell $41.20, or 10 percent, to $361.90. The online shopping giant said its profit and revenue grew in the latest quarter but results fell below what Wall Street was expecting. Meanwhile, Wal-Mart, the world's largest brick-and-mortar retailer, said its earnings may come in below the low end of its prior forecasts. After falling as much as 1.5 percent in morning trading, Wal-Mart bounced back by early afternoon, adding 13 cents to $74.89.

MASTERCARD MISS: MasterCard was down $3.91, or 5 percent, to $75.85. The credit card processing company reported a profit of 57 cents a share, after one-time adjustments, but the results fell short of the 60 cents analysts forecast. Revenue also missed.

ZYNGA JUMPS: There were bright spots. The video game company Zynga said Thursday it was buying NaturalMotion, the company behind the hit mobile games "CSR Racing" and "Clumsy Ninja." It also said it would cut its workforce by 15 percent. The news sent Zynga shares soaring, up 68 cents, or 19 percent, to $4.24.

SPICY RISER: Chipotle Mexican Grill reported better-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings late Thursday, stoking investors' appetite for the restaurant chain's shares. The stock was up $65.84, or $13 percent, to $559.80 — good enough to make it the S&P 500's top gainer.

HOME IMPROVEMENT: U.S. homebuilders surged as investors looked ahead to the coming spring home-selling season, which traditionally kicks off a week after the Super Bowl. Several builders reported strong home price growth for the October-December quarter this week. PulteGroup was leading the rally. It climbed 80 cents, or 4.1 percent, to $20.57.

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