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'Fragile' market slips on earnings

| Friday, Jan. 17, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

NEW YORK — A batch of negative company news gave investors something to fret over on Thursday.

A day after eking out its first record high of 2014, the stock market lost ground as Best Buy, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and CSX had disappointing earnings news.

Consumer discretionary companies and banks fell the most.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index slipped 2.49 points, or 0.1 percent, to 1,845.89, retreating from the all-time high it hit the day before.

Best Buy fell the most in the S&P 500 index. The company reported a decline in sales during the crucial holiday season. Its shares plunged $10.74, or 29 percent, to $26.83.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 64.93 points, or 0.4 percent, to 16,417.01. The Nasdaq composite had a modest gain of 3.80 points, or 0.1 percent, to 4,218.69.

Goldman Sachs was the biggest drag on the Dow, falling $3.58, or 2 percent, to $175.17. The bank reported a drop in fourth-quarter profit because of problems in its mortgages and bond trading division. However, Goldman's earnings beat analysts' expectations.

The bond and mortgage businesses were also weak at Citigroup, whose results fell short of expectations. The stock dropped $2.39, or 4 percent, to $52.60.

The stock market is “fragile” right now, said Scott Clemons, chief investment strategist at Brown Brothers Harriman.

“If something were to go wrong, like if this earnings season continues to disappoint, I think any negative market reaction would be magnified,” Clemons said. “The market is not as resilient as it was last year.”

The company disappointments were not limited to retailers and banks.

CSX warned investors that it might be difficult to reach its profit targets over the next two years because of ongoing weak demand for coal. The news pushed CSX down $1.99, or 7 percent, to $27.24. Other railroad stocks including Union Pacific and Norfolk Southern also fell.

It's still very early in earnings season. Roughly 70 members of the S&P 500 index report next week, including Microsoft, IBM, Delta Air Lines and McDonald's.

Investors retreated into traditional “safe havens” like government bonds, high-dividend stocks and gold. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.84 percent from 2.89 percent the day before.

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