Stocks Slide as Fed Signals Further QE Cuts

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- U.S. stocks dropped on Friday as comments from the Fed suggested the central bank will continue to scale back its economic stimulus program. Companies from Priceline (PCLN) to CommScope (COMM) continued to beat earnings estimates.

  • The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 0.19% to 16,103.30 while the S&P 500 dropped 0.19% to 1,836.25. The Nasdaq decreased 0.1% to 4,263.41.
  • St. Louis Fed President James Bullard Friday afternoon said that the U.S. economy was much stronger and that there would be more cuts to the Fed's monetary stimulus program moving forward.
  • The office of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych said Friday an international deal to end the increasing violence between protesters and police has been achieved, though there were concerns that it wouldn't be sufficient to pacify protesters.
  • Standard & Poor's said Ukraine will likely default on its debt if there are no significant improvements in the political crisis, which it doesn't expect. The agency cited the increasing violence between protesters and police as it downgraded the country's rating by a notch to CCC.
  • Existing home sales for January fell to the lowest level in more than a year as bitter winter conditions, a lack of supply, tight credit and falling affordability crimped demand. Purchases fell 5.1% to a 4.62 million annual rate last month, according to the National Association of Realtors, below expectations for a result of 4.68 million units. Barclays analysts warned, "This is an important statistic to watch as a gauge of the housing recovery, as first-time homebuyers generally feel the pinch of higher mortgage rates first given their lower average median income relative to existing home owners."
  • International stocks were higher after the prior day's slump as the Bank of Japan's January meeting minutes indicated that its aggressive stimulus could persist for more than the market's expectation of two years. Japan's Nikkei 225 closed ahead by 2.88%, the Hong Kong Hang Seng settled up 0.78%. The FTSE 100 in London finished up 0.37% and the DAX in Germany was up 0.40% after dropping by the most in more than two weeks on Thursday.
  • A Group of 20 finance ministers and central bankers meeting in Sydney this weekend will aim to reduce volatility as the Federal Reserve winds back its bond-buying program.
  • In stock news, HP (HPQ) fell 1.3% despite blowing past Wall Street's top- and bottom-line estimates in its first-quarter results released on Thursday. CommScope (COMM) jumped 15.6% after forecasting first-quarter adjusted earnings of 36 cents to 40 cents a share and sales of $860 million to $900 million, well above expectations. Groupon (GRPN) plummeted 21.9% after the company warned of a quarterly loss on increased marketing expenses. Priceline (PCLN) increased 2.5% and Intuit (INTU) rose 4.6% after beating earnings estimates, while Amazon.com (AMZN) was slightly lower after reports it will list brands such as Ralph Lauren. Seagate Technology (STX) lifted by 1.5% after RBC Capital Markets raised its rating on the stock.

-- Written by Jane Searle, Andrea Tse and Joe Deaux in New York

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