NEW YORK – Stocks fell on Friday, as investors fretted about Apple's weaker-than-expected results - the latest in a string of lackluster earnings - and signs that economic growth is still not strong enough to make a significant reduction in unemployment.
Apple , the world's largest publicly traded company, surprised analysts with its weak margin outlook, as well as with its quarterly earnings and iPad sales that fell short of expectations. The results were released after Thursday's close. Apple's stock lost 2.6 percent to $593.50, near its session low.
Lighter revenues have been a concern this earnings season. Just 36.9 percent of S&P 500 companies so far have reported revenue that beat forecasts, compared with the 62 percent that typically exceed expectations, according to Thomson Reuters data.
"There's not a lot of chest-beating coming out of these (company) earnings calls. You still have caution ruling the day," said Kurt Brunner, portfolio manager at Swarthmore Group in Philadelphia.
Earnings have fared better, with 62.5 percent above expectations - almost even with the 62 percent that is historically seen.
The S&P 500 has dropped 1.6 percent this week as dismal corporate earnings and cautious outlooks, especially from large multinationals, painted a pessimistic picture of the global economy.
A slightly better-than-expected pace of growth for the economy boosted sentiment in the early morning, but that faded. The 2 percent annual rate of growth for U.S. gross domestic product for the third quarter confirmed analysts' views that the economic recovery will be slow.
"The fact that this was a 2 percent GDP number is still pathetic in the overall scheme of life - we ought to be growing at 4 percent, not 2 percent," said Phil Orlando, chief equity market strategist, at Federated Investors, in New York.
The Dow Jones industrial average slipped 40.97 points, or 0.31 percent, to 13,062.71. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index dropped 6.52 points, or 0.46 percent, to 1,406.45. The Nasdaq Composite Index shed 19.21 points, or 0.64 percent, to 2,966.90.
Amazon.com Inc bucked the market's weakness, climbing 3 percent to $229.63 as analysts said the online retailer's spending will hurt margins, but would boost profit in the long run.
Adding to uncertainty was the U.S. presidential election on November 6 - a little over a week away. Along with earnings and growth worries, concerns about further political loggerheads have helped push the benchmark S&P 500 index below a key support level, the 50-day moving average, at around 1,434.
Many analysts expect the S&P 500's retreat to wane near 1,400 or 1,375, as the Federal Reserve's latest stimulus policy puts a floor under stock prices.
Arch Coal Inc shares surged 10.4 percent to $8.07 after the company, which is one of the world's top five coal producers, surprised Wall Street with a third-quarter profit as cost cuts paid off, and thermal coal shipments improved.
Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co slid 10.1 percent to $11.06 after the company, the top U.S. tire maker, said quarterly profit fell amid lower tire sales in all of its key markets, particularly in Europe.
(Reporting by Leah Schnurr; Additional reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; Editing by Jan Paschal)