Stocks Opened Mixed, Apple Weighed on Tech

U.S. stocks opened mixed on Thursday, as positive economic data buoyed the Dow Jones Industrial Average, while a slump for Apple Inc. shares weighed on the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite index. The Dow lately gained 51.14 points, or 0.37%, to 13,830.47 and the S&P 500 index edged up 3.22 points, or 0.22%, to 1,498.03. The Nasdaq Composite dropped 11.85 points, or 0.38%, to 3,141.82.

The number of people who applied for new U.S. jobless benefits fell again last week and remained at a five-year low. Initial applications for U.S. unemployment benefits fell by 5,000 to a seasonally adjusted 330,000 in the week ended Jan. 19, the Labor Department said Thursday.

The nation’s sharp disagreements over taxes and spending are on a re-routed collision course, as Senate Democrats launch a plan that includes new taxes and House Republicans vow to speed up their plan to balance the federal budget with spending cuts alone.

Finnish mobile phone maker Nokia (HEX:NOK1V) plans to axe its annual dividend payment for the first time in over 20 years to shore up its cash position against falling sales.

3M Co reported a 3.9 percent rise in quarterly profit, matching expectations. The company said on Thursday that fourth-quarter profit increased to $991 million or $1.41 per share, from $954 million, or $1.35 per share, a year earlier. Revenue rose 4.2 percent to $7.39 billion from $7.09 billion.

Southwest Airlines Co. says fourth-quarter earnings fell by nearly half on higher spending for fuel, labor and maintenance. Southwest said Thursday that net income was $78 million, or 11 cents per share. That’s down from $152 million, or 20 cents per share, a year earlier. Revenue ticked up 1.6 percent to $4.17 billion but fell short of the $4.20 billion that analysts expected.

China’s manufacturing sector showed more signs of improvement this month, with a preliminary reading of purchasing managers’ sentiment rising Thursday to the highest level in two years. Global bank HSBC said its “flash” index of purchasing managers’ sentiment rose to 51.9 in January from December’s final reading of 51.5. Any reading above 50 signals expansion in the manufacturing sector.

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