Warnings of slower sales sends U.S. stocks lower

Warnings of weaker sales from two major companies and concern that the Federal Reserve could pull back its support for the economy sent the stock market spiraling lower Thursday.

Before the start of trading, Wal-Mart cut its estimates for annual revenue and profit, warning that cautious shoppers are spending less. The news followed a revenue forecast from Cisco Systems late Wednesday that was weaker than Wall Street expected.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index was down 20 points, or 1.2 percent, to 1,666 at noon Eastern Daylight Time.

The selling swept across all 10 industry groups in the index, and 93 percent of the index's 500 stocks fell.

The Dow Jones industrial average lost 177 points, or 1.2 percent, to 15,159. The Nasdaq composite index fell 52 points, or 1.4 percent, to 3,618. Continue reading "Warnings of slower sales sends U.S. stocks lower"

How a phony tweet and computer trades sank stocks

For a few surreal minutes, a mere 12 words on Twitter caused the world's mightiest stock market to tremble.

No sooner did hackers send a false Associated Press tweet reporting explosions at the White House on Tuesday than investors started dumping stocks eventually unloading $134 billion worth. Turns out, some investors are not only gullible, they're impossibly fast stock traders.

Except most of the investors weren't human. They were computers, selling on autopilot beyond the control of humans, like a scene from a sci-fi horror film.

"Before you could blink, it was over," said Joe Saluzzi, co-founder of Themis Trading and an outspoken critic of high-speed computerized trading. "With people, you wouldn't have this type of reaction." Continue reading "How a phony tweet and computer trades sank stocks"

U.S. unemployment aid applications rise

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits increased just 4,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 352,000. The slight gain kept applications at a level consistent with solid hiring and suggests March's sluggish hiring may be temporary.

The Labor Department report released Thursday also noted that the four-week average, a less volatile measure, rose to 361,250.

Applications are a proxy for layoffs. They jumped three weeks ago to a four-month high, but then plummeted the following week. The sharp fluctuations reflected volatility around the Easter holiday, department officials said. Overall, applications have declined slightly since January.

Job growth slowed sharply in March. Employers added only 88,000 jobs last month, much lower than the average monthly gain of 220,000 from November through February. Continue reading "U.S. unemployment aid applications rise"

A look at the eurozone's 5 bailouts

Cyprus' bailout deal is the fifth agreed on so far in the 17-strong group of European Union countries that use the euro since the debt crisis began in late 2009.

Here's a look at the rescue programs:

GREECE - Greece has received two bailout packages from its eurozone partners and the International Monetary Fund. Its problems began in late 2009, when the government admitted that public debt was far higher than official statistics showed. That led it to accept a bailout package of 110 billion euros (worth $142 billion today) in May 2010. When it became clear that bailout was not enough _ because the economy kept weakening _ a second bailout was clinched in February 2012 for another 130 billion euros. That included a writedown on the value of Greek government bonds to lighten Athens' debt burden. Continue reading "A look at the eurozone's 5 bailouts"

Americans Yawn At Budget Cut Hype

President Barack Obama is pulling out all the stops to warn just what could happen if automatic budget cuts kick in. Americans are reacting with a collective yawn.

They know the drill: Obama raises the alarm, Democrats and Republicans accuse each other of holding a deal hostage, there's a lot of yelling on cable news, and then finally, when everyone has made their points, a deal is struck and the day is saved.

Maybe not this time. Two days before $85 billion in cuts are set to hit federal programs with all the precision of a wrecking ball, there are no signs that a deal is imminent. Even the White House conceded Wednesday that efforts to avoid the cuts were unlikely to succeed before they kick in on Friday.

Still, for all the grim predictions, Americans seem to be flipping the channel to something a little less, well, boring. They wonder, haven't we been here before? Continue reading "Americans Yawn At Budget Cut Hype"