Wall Street edges lower


New York - US stocks edged lower on Thursday, as investors discounted weaker-than-expected data on consumer spending and the labour market, but a disappointing outlook by Cisco Systems weighed on each of the major indexes.

Cisco fell 4.5 percent to $21.85 as one of the top drags on all three major US indexes after the network-gear maker forecast a drop of 6 to 8 percent in revenue in the current quarter.

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The US bourse is set to open higher as European leaders get ready to meet.

Indexes managed to recover from initial lows and pull to near the unchanged mark as investors looked past soft data on the consumer and labour market due to harsh weather conditions.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits rose last week and retail sales fell in January, while December retail sales were also revised lower.

“Certainly, weather affected retail sales in January and we would expect it again in February,” said Kate Warne, investment strategist at Edward Jones in St. Louis.

“Yes, they were disappointing but nobody is sure whether it is a real slow down or just due to the weather.”

Comcast Corp said it would buy Time Warner Cable Inc for $45.2 billion in an all-stock deal that combines the two largest US cable operators.

Time Warner shares rose 6.9 percent to $144.58 while Comcast shed 3.9 percent to $53.05. Shares of Charter Communications Inc, which had also pursued Time Warner, fell 6.8 percent to $128.24.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 38.23 points or 0.24 percent, to 15,925.71, the S&P 500 lost 2.2 points or 0.12 percent, to 1,817.06 and the Nasdaq Composite added 4.853 points or 0.12 percent, to 4,206.141.

A deadly winter storm moved north along the East Coast of the United States on Thursday, bringing heavy snow, sleet and rain across the Washington, D.C., and New York areas, grounding flights and shutting government offices.

A scheduled hearing by Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen in front of the US Senate Banking Committee on Thursday was postponed due to the snowstorm in the US East Coast.

Yellen's testimony Tuesday helped fuel strong gains on Wall Street.

Whole Foods Market Inc lost 8.5 percent to $50.76 after the largest US organic and natural food retailer stunned investors on Wednesday by cutting its 2014 sales forecast for the second time in three months.

Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co jumped 8.3 percent to $26.17 after one of the world's largest tire companies posted a higher-than-expected fourth-quarter profit on Thursday and said it had fully funded its hourly US pension plan.

Of 382 companies in the S&P 500 that reported earnings through Thursday morning, 67.5 percent beat profit expectations, above the 63 percent average since 1994 and slightly above the 67 percent rate for the past four quarters, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Avon Products Inc shed 1.6 percent to $14.82 after it posted fourth-quarter results and said it may cost as much as $132 million to settle a US bribery investigation into the beauty products company's efforts to develop new markets overseas.

S&P 500 companies scheduled to report after the closing bell include Agilent Technologies Inc, American International Group, Cliffs Natural Resources Inc and Kraft Foods Group Inc. - Reuters

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