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Weak Open On Wall Street; Wal-Mart Disappoints

By MATTHEW CRAFT

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ Signs of a slowing economy combined with comments from a Federal Reserve official helped pull the stock market down Thursday.

There was plenty of discouraging news. Applications for unemployment benefits rose last week and manufacturing slowed in the mid-Atlantic region. Wal-Mart sank after warning that its customers were spending less at its stores.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 42.47 points to 15,233.22, a loss of 0.3 percent. The Standard & Poor's 500 index dropped 8.31 points to 1,650.47, down 0.5 percent. It was only the third drop for the S&P 500 this month. Both indexes closed at record highs the day before.

"We've had such a tremendous run," said J. J. Kinahan, chief strategist at TD Ameritrade. "On a day with a bunch of disappointing data, you're looking for some good news to hold on to."

The manufacturing report from the Philadelphia branch of the Federal Reserve sent bond prices up and turned stocks lower in morning trading. The stock market recovered before noon, then spent most of the day with slight gains until shortly after 3 p.m.

That's when news crossed that John Williams, head of the Federal Reserve's San Francisco branch, told an audience that the Fed could end its bond-buying program this year. But Williams' comments made clear that the Fed would only curtail its stimulus effort when the economy looked strong enough. Within the last hour of trading, the S&P 500 dropped 5 points.

Cisco jumped 13 percent, or $2.68, to $23.89. The network-equipment maker turned in quarterly results late Wednesday that beat analysts' expectations, with the help of better revenue from the U.S. and emerging markets. Cisco's performance is often considered a gauge of the technology industry's strength, and tech stocks fared better than the rest of the market Thursday. Technology was the only one of the 10 industry groups in the S&P 500 index to close higher.

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