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Stocks slip lower as rise in unemployment claims outweighs strong bond sales in Italy, Spain
NEW YORK (AP) ' Stocks slipped Thursday after an increase in unemployment claims and tepid December retail sales countered optimism about strong bond auctions in Italy and Spain.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 38 points to 12,411 as of 11:30 a.m. Energy and banking stocks led the market lower.
Chevron Corp. fell 2.5 percent, the most among the 30 stocks in the Dow. The world's second-largest publicly traded oil company said its fourth-quarter income will be "significantly" below its results in the prior quarter because of narrower profit margins on refining and selling fuels.
The S&P 500 index was down 4 points, or 0.3 percent, at 1,288. The Nasdaq composite fell 3 points to 2,708.
Weekly unemployment benefits spiked last week to the highest level in six weeks, mostly because companies let go of thousands of holiday hires, the government reported. Retail sales barely rose in December and were lower than analysts were expecting.
European markets mostly rose after Italy and Spain held highly successful bond auctions, easing worries about Europe's debt crisis. Italy's benchmark stock index rose 2 percent.
In Italy's first bond auction of the new year, the country was able to sell one-year bonds at a rate of just 2.735 percent, less than half the 5.95 percent rate it had to pay last month. That's a signal that investors are becoming more confident in Italy's ability to pay its debts.
Spain was able to raise double the amount of money it had sought to raise in its own bond sale as demand for its debt was strong. Both auctions were seen as important tests of investor sentiment.
Investors have been worried that Italy and Spain, the third- and fourth-largest countries in the euro area, might get dragged into the region's debt crisis. Greece, Ireland and Portugal have been forced to get relief from their lenders after their borrowing costs spiked to levels the countries could no longer afford.
The euro rose nearly a penny against the dollar, to $1.28, as worries eased about Europe's financial woes. The currency, which is shared by 17 European countries, fell to a 16-month low against the dollar the day before.
Meanwhile, the two leading European central banks held their interest rates Thursday, with the European Central Bank keeping its rate at 1 percent and the Bank of England maintaining its lending rate at a record low of 0.5 percent.
Trading has been relatively quiet since the beginning of the year. The S&P moved less than 1 percent each of the last six days, marking the quietest stretch since last May.
Among stocks making big moves:
' Casino operator Wynn Resorts Ltd. fell 6 percent, the biggest drop in the S&P 500 index. The company disclosed in a regulatory filing that its vice chairman has filed a lawsuit against the company. Kazuo Okada claims that Wynn has refused to give him access to records relating to a $135 million donation the company made to the University of Macau and other matters.
' Sears Holdings Corp. lost more than 4 percent after published reports said that CIT Group has decided to stop financing loans to suppliers waiting to be paid by the struggling retailer.
' CA Inc. jumped 4 percent, the most in the S&P 500. The hedge fund Taconic Capital disclosed in a regulatory filing that it has taken a 5.1 percent stake in the business software and technology company and is pressing CA to return more cash to shareholders and increase its profit margins.