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US stocks fall, weighed by technology, Cyprus

Daniel Wagner, AP Business Writer

Stocks fell on Wall Street Thursday. U.S. technology companies weighed on the market and investors worried about Cyprus running out of time to avoid bankruptcy.

An hour into trading, the Dow Jones industrial average and Standard & Poor's 500 index were down about 0.5 percent. The Nasdaq, which is heavily weighted toward technology stocks, was down slightly more, falling 0.7 percent.

The fall in U.S. stock markets followed Europe's declines from earlier in the day.

The main indexes in Paris, London and Frankfurt fell more than a percentage point. Traders focused on events in Cyprus. The European Central Bank has threatened to end emergency support of the nation's banks next week unless leaders can secure more funding.

In the U.S., technology stocks dragged the indexes lower after Oracle reported an unexpected decline in sales in its fiscal third quarter.

The Dow dropped 73 points, or 0.5 percent, to 14,437. Cisco was the biggest loser in the Dow, followed by IBM and Intel.

The S&P 500 fell eight points, or 0.5 percent, to 1,550. Oracle was the biggest decliner in the Standard & Poor's 500 index; Juniper networks also fell steeply.

Pressure mounted on Cyprus to fix its financial system. It must raise about $7.5 billion in the next four days to avoid bankruptcy. Several plans have failed, including a proposal to tax deposits held by the nation's banks.

If the Mediterranean banking haven is unable to secure a bailout, its banks will fail and it could be forced to leave the euro currency.

In the U.S., the yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 1.93 percent from 1.96 percent earlier as demand increased for ultra-safe investments.

Trans-Atlantic jitters and technology stocks overshadowed encouraging data about the U.S. economy.

The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits barely changed last week, the Labor Department said before the market opened. The average over the past month fell to a five-year low. A decline in layoffs is helping strengthen the job market.

Home sales rose in February to a fresh three-year high, according to the National Association of Realtors. It is the latest signal that the housing recovery is solidifying.

Besides technology, here are other stocks that fell:

— Struggling drug company AstraZeneca jumped after saying it would cut 2,300 more jobs worldwide and overhaul its research operations. That brings to 11,000 the number of job cuts announced in the past 13 months. Shares rose 84, or 2 percent, to $47.02.

— Publisher Scholastic Corp. plunged after shrinking demand for its best-selling "The Hunger Games" books forced it to cut its guidance for the year. The company's fiscal third-quarter loss nearly doubled. Shares fell $4.27, or 14 percent, to $26.79.

— Movado Group Inc. dropped after the luxury watchmaker said its fiscal fourth-quarter net income fell 26 percent. The stock fell $1.38, or 4 percent, to $35.74.

And among technology stocks that fell:

— Oracle fell $3.48, or 10 percent, to $32.29.

— Juniper dropped 55 cents, or 3 percent, to $18.76.

— Cisco fell 72 cents, or 3 percent, to $20.95.

— IBM declined $3.37, or 2 percent, to $211.69

— Intel was off 17 cents, less than 1 percent, at $21.01.


Daniel Wagner can be reached at www.twitter.com/wagnerreports.