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The markets fell for the third day in a row Thursday as traders mulled a slew of economic data and corporate reports.
As of 12:15 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 21.1 points, or 0.16%, to 13056, the S&P 500 dipped 1.3 points, or 0.1%, to 1407 and the Nasdaq Composite slipped 1.2 points, or 0.06%, to 2980.
The major market averages are on a two-day losing streak, having tumbled on Tuesday and then failed to hold on to gains the following day. Corporate earnings have come squarely into focus, and a bevy of big-name players are set to report on the day.
Ahead of the opening bell in New York, Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG) posted mixed results. The consumer products giant posted a core fiscal-first quarter profit of $1.06 a share, which excludes 10 cents in non-core charges, beating expectations of 96 cents a share. Sales came in at $20.7 billion, slightly shy of estimates of $20.78 billion.
Energy heavyweight ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP) and telecommunications provide Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) beat on the bottom line as well. On the other end of the spectrum, airline operator United Continental (NYSE:UAL) missed on profit and sales.
Then after the closing bell, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), the world's biggest publicly-traded company, is set to report its earnings. As a result of its nearly $600 billion market capitalization, the iPhone maker's shares often have an outsized affect on the broader markets, particularly the tech-heavy Nasdaq. Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) and insurer Chubb (NYSE:CB) are among companies also taking the plate after 4:00 p.m. ET.
The economic calendar was quite full as well.
The Commerce Department reports orders for long-lasting goods climbed 9.9% in September from August, topping estimates of a 7.1% increase. Excluding the transportation segment, orders rose 2%, coming up short of estimates of an 0.8% gain. Economists said much of the gains in the headline reading was due to an big increase in aircraft orders.
Paul Edelstein, director of financial economics at IHS Global insight, struck a cautious tone: "Volatile aircraft and defense orders aside, this latest durable goods report suggests that business investment spending has slowed in the face of weaker profits growth and global uncertainty," he wrote in a note to clients.
The Labor Department said new claims for unemployment benefits fell to 369,000 last week from an upwardly revised 392,000 the week prior. Claims were expected to fall to 370,000 from an initially reported 388,000.
The National Association of Realtors, meanwhile, said pending home sales rose 0.3% in September from August, less than the 2.1% expected. Sales are up 14.5% from a year ago. The housing market, while still depressed by historical standards, has been showing renewed signs of life.
Also on the economic front, the British economy expanded at a pace of 1% in the third quarter, emerging from a double-dip recession. The figures came in ahead of economists forecasts of 0.6%, and a 0.4% contraction the prior quarter.
Oil prices were flat after dropping for five days in a row. The benchmark contract traded in New York fell 1 cent, or 0%, to $85.72 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline jumped 1.1% to $2.631 a gallon.
In metals, gold climbed $14.60, or 0.86%, to $1,716.
The Euro Stoxx 50 fell 0.29% to 2483, the English FTSE 100 was flat at 5805 and the German DAX advanced 0.1% to 7200.
In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 rallied 1.1% to 9055 and the Chinese Hang Seng ticked up by 0.21% to 21810.