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Stocks fall again on Wall Street on worries over Europe, worrisome US economic reports
NEW YORK (AP) ' Stocks slipped Thursday after a couple of downbeat economic reports from the U.S. and unease over Europe overshadowed positive earnings from the largest American retailer and an encouraging jobs report.
The Dow Jones industrial average was down 72 points at 12,526 shortly after noon. The Dow is on its way to its 11th loss in the past 12 trading days. It's down 6 percent for the month so far and could be headed for its first down month since September.
The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 10 points to 1,314. The Nasdaq composite fell 34 points to 2,840.
Heavy-equipment maker Caterpillar fell the most of the 30 stocks in the Dow average, 4 percent, after reporting that sales of machines slowed around the world last month. Wal-Mart stock rose 5 percent, the most in the Down, after reporting a 10 percent jump in first-quarter income, beating Wall Street expectations.
Indexes opened lower on Wall Street following declines in European markets. The declines accelerated at mid-morning after the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia said manufacturing slowed in the mid-Atlantic region for the first time in eight months. New orders decreased and firms cut jobs.
Also, the Conference Board said its measure of future U.S. economic growth fell in April after six months of increases. The drop reflected fewer requests for building permits and a spike in applications for unemployment benefits.
These downbeat reports were a surprise and came as investors continued to fret about whether Greece might be forced to exit the euro bloc, something that investors fear would cause turmoil on global markets.
"The U.S. economy is growing slowly and not going gangbusters," said Brian Gendreau, market strategist at broker-dealer Cetera Financial Group. "But Europe is very much on investors' minds. It's been two years with multiple bailouts involving Ireland, Portugal and Greece and things don't seem to be getting better."
Greece's caretaker Cabinet was sworn in Thursday and will hold power at least until next month's election. In the recently-held elections Greeks didn't given any party a majority, but they did give strong support to politicians who rejected the tough austerity measures that came with the country's financial bailout.
Without that rescue package, Greece will likely default and be forced to leave the 17-country euro zone, which would destabilize other countries that use the euro. German, French and Spanish stock markets all fell more than 1 percent.
Collateral economic damage is already being felt by other members of the euro bloc.
Spain was forced to pay sharply higher interest rates to raise $3.18 billion in a debt auction Thursday. And shares of Bankia, which Spain nationalized last week, plunged 20 percent on a report from the newspaper El Mundo stating that depositors have withdrawn over $1 billion since last Wednesday.
Oil prices continued to trade lower, falling below $93 a barrel on Thursday, extending a sharp two-week sell-off, as traders worried about the potential impact on global growth from the European crisis. Crude oil has plummeted about 12 percent from $106 two weeks ago.
Energy companies fell. Chesapeake Energy fell 4 percent, while WPX Energy declined 6 percent.
Among stocks making big moves:
' Media General soared 38 percent after billionaire Warren Buffett's company Berkshire Hathaway agreed to buy 63 newspapers from the company for $142 million.
' GameStop fell 9 percent after the world's largest video game retailer reported its first-quarter profit fell 9.8 percent, as fewer customers visited its stores and bought new games and systems.
' Sears Holdings rose 7 percent after the beleaguered retailer turned a profit in the first quarter, benefiting from a gain on the sale of some stores.