Weak Oracle sales, Cyprus fears weigh on stocks

| Friday, March 22, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Stocks closed lower on Wall Street on Thursday as Oracle's weak sales results weighed down big U.S. technology companies. Traders also worried about Cyprus running out of time to avoid bankruptcy.

Major indexes followed European markets lower at the open and remained solidly negative all day. The Dow Jones industrial average fell as much as 129 points by mid-afternoon before paring the loss to close down 90 points.

Oracle was the biggest decliner in the S&P 500 index; Juniper Networks also fell steeply. The S&P 500 closed down 12.91 points, or 0.8 percent, at 1,545.80.

The Dow dropped 90.24 points, or 0.6 percent, to 14,421.49. Cisco was the Dow's biggest loser, followed by H-P. IBM also lost ground.

The Nasdaq, which is weighted heavily toward tech stocks, fell a full percentage point. It closed down 31.59 points at 3,222.60.

In other news, sales of previously occupied homes rose in February to their fastest pace in more than three years.

about the U.S. economy and the Federal Reserve's easy money policies.

The Dow is up 2.6 percent this month. The S&P 500 has gained 2.1 percent in March and is 20 points from its own all-time high set in October 2007.

Given the market's recent strength, many analysts have been anticipating a sharp decline at the first sign of bad news — whether from Europe, corporate America or the U.S. economy.

The pullback has not materialized, said Troy Logan, managing director and senior economist at Warren Financial Service in Exton, Penn. He said today's losses could have been much worse.

“We thought Cyprus would be the perfect opportunity for the market to step back, but it looks like the market has shrugged it off,” Logan said.

Many of his firm's customers are seeking higher-risk investments with higher potential returns, Logan said — an indication that stocks may keep rising.

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