Stocks Ended Down, Up in February

U.S. stocks finished mildly lower on Thursday in a low-volume session, giving up modest gains late in the day. The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended down 20.88 points, or 0.2%, at 14,054.49,leaving it up 1.4% for its third consecutive monthly gain. The S&P 500 shed 1.31 points, or 0.09%, to 1,514.68, up 1.1% for February. The Nasdaq Composite lost 2.07 points, or 0.07%, to 3,160.19, leaving it up 0.6% for the month.

Automatic federal budget cuts of $85 billion looked certain to kick in after a pair of bills to replace them failed in the Senate on Thursday. Neither a Democratic nor a Republican bill aimed at replacing the so-called sequester was able to get enough support to win a test vote on Thursday.

Gap Inc. (NYSE:GPS) said Thursday its fourth-quarter profit rose to $351 million, or 73 cents a share, from $218 million, or 44 cents, a year earlier. Sales in the quarter ended Feb. 2 rose to $4.73 billion from $4.28 billion.

Natus Medical Inc. reported a better-than-expected fourth-quarter profit. Natus earned $4.8 million, or 16 cents per share, compared with a loss of $17.3 million, or 61 cents per share, in the same quarter the year before. Excluding one-time items, the company said it posted an adjusted profit of 29 cents per share for the recent quarter. Revenue rose 41 percent to $90.5 million from $64.1 million.

EU competition regulators plan to fine Microsoft Corp before the end of March in a case tied to the U.S. software giant’s antitrust battle in Europe more than a decade ago, three people familiar with the matter said on Thursday.

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