NEW YORK (
) -- Stocks closed with modest losses on Wednesday, retreating from Tuesday's 13-month highs, as a downbeat tech sector and slumping housing starts pressured the major indices.
Dow Jones Industrial Average
slid 11 points, or 0.1%, to 10,426. The
declined half a point to 1110, as the
lost 11 points, or 0.5%, to 2193.
Still, stocks retraced their steps from session lows that found the Dow sliding over 70 points.
an underwhelming forecast from
flat results from
were attributed as catalysts for a plunge in tech sector stocks today.
Research In Motion
( RIMM) added to the tech decline after
downgraded the company to market perform from outperform in the morning.
also stood out on the Dow's list of top 10 decliners.
Still, the financial sector served as a bright spot in the afternoon, with the KBW Bank Index and the S&P Banking Index gaining 1.4% and 1.1%, respectively.
Bank of America
was helping offset the declines on the Dow, closing up 58 cents, or 3.7%, to $16.35.
The negative day started at the opening bell, as investors soured early on a steady stream of economic reports in the morning. Headlining the fall, housing starts fell short of expectations, declining to a seasonally adjusted 529,000 in October from a revised 592,000 in the prior month. Starts were anticipated to rise to 600,000. Building permits also fell to 552,000 from 575,000 in September, and came in below the 580,000 expected.
Following Tuesday's wholesale price data, the government said the consumer price index rose 0.3% in October, a tick higher than the 0.2% rise expected by many analysts. The inflation measure increased 0.2% in September.
Excluding food and energy prices, core CPI rose 0.2% vs. a forecast for a 0.1% rise.
Michael Pento, senior market strategist at Delta Global Advisors, sees the underwhelming data as another indication of vulnerabilities in market fundamentals.
"The housing numbers this morning were extremely weak," says Pento. "I think that's very good news for the housing market in the long term, but it's horrible news for GDP in the fourth quarter. In fact, my prediction is for a double-dip recession, or at least very below trend growth in GDP for all of 2010."
"We haven't solved one iota of the real issue," adds Pento. "The real problem with this country is an overleveraged condition, an extreme over-indebtedness. That condition has actually exacerbated since the crisis began. I'm more negative now in the longer term than I've ever been in my history as a market observer."
Crude oil inventories also dropped by 900,000 barrels last week, according to a report from the Energy Information Administration. Analysts polled by Platts expected a rise of 1.2 million barrels.
Gasoline stockpiles also fell by 1.7 million barrels, while distillate fuels declined by 300,000 barrels. Forecasts centered on a gasoline build of 950,000 barrels and a 700,000 barrel drop in distillates.
Crude oil settled at $79.58 a barrel after adding 44 cents on the day and topping $80 just after release of the report.
The onslaught of retailer earnings continued Wednesday morning, with
reporting a 37% slide in quarterly profit
due largely to charges related to a legal settlement. The wholesale club unveiled adjusted earnings of 45 cents a share, which were in line with Wall Street forecasts. Shares slid 71 cents, or nearly 2%, to $35.63.
, reporting earnings of 13 cents a share alongside a 13% jump in sales. Shares surged around 9%, or $1.19, to $14.67.
After the closing bell, teen retailer
( HOTT) reported earnings in line with expectations of 13 cents a share, but thoroughly disappointed in its fourth-quarter estimates. Shares fell 6.5% in after hours trading.
shares bounded higher by about 3% after the closing bell. In the second quarter, adjusted net earnings of 37 cents a share beat the consensus of 30 cents. Revenue of $910 million held flat from year-earlier period, but beat forecasts.
kicked off a $500 million program, advised in part by Warren Buffett,
a bid for U.K.-based candy maker
said it will buy
for around $300 million. Launched by AOL co-founder Steve Case, Revolution Money maintains a secure, online payment platform for transactions.
Overseas, Hong Kong's Hang Seng slid 0.3%, and Japan's Nikkei dipped 0.6%. The FTSE in London was largely flat, while the DAX in Frankfurt added 0.2%.
Gold touched fresh highs above $1,150 during the Wednesday session, ultimately settling at $1,141.20 an ounce after adding $1.80.
-- Written by Sung Moss in New York