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A sharp fall in durable orders coupled with disappointing data from Procter & Gamble and AT&T dragged the Dow Jones into negative territory on Wednesday. But the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq ended flat. Durable goods orders logged their biggest decline in seven months for the month of March. The materials sector was the biggest gainer among the S&P 500 industry groups whereas health care stocks were the major losers.  

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) lost 0.3% to close the day at 14,676.30. The S&P 500 gained only marginally, by 0.01, to finish yesterday’s trading session at 1578.78. The tech-laden Nasdaq Composite Index increased 0.01% to end at 3,269.65. The fear-gauge CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) gained 1.0% to settle at 13.61. Consolidated volumes on the New York Stock Exchange, American Stock Exchange and Nasdaq were roughly 6.3 billion shares, slightly lower than this year’s daily average of 6.4 billion shares. Advancing stocks easily outnumbered the decliners. For the 65% that advanced, 31% declined.

Shares of The Procter & Gamble Company (NYSE:PG) took a hammering yesterday and fell nearly 6% after the company announced its quarterly results. The company’s earnings came in above the Street’s estimates but revenue fell short of expectations. Procter & Gamble’s also lowered its earnings outlook for the current quarter. However, net income increased 6% in the third quarter. AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T) lost 5.0% after the company declared its quarterly results. The company’s revenue came in below the Street’s expectations.

The Boeing Company (NYSE:BA) also declared its first-quarter results. The company’s profits jumped nearly 20% in the first-quarter surpassing the Street’s estimates. Difficulties arising from the launch of the 787 Dreamliner had negligible impact on Boeing’s results. On the other hand, Amgen, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMGN) beat first-quarter earnings estimates but fell short of revenue expectations. The company's shares tumbled nearly 7% following its quarterly results.

The health care sector was the biggest loser among the S&P 500 industry groups and the Health Care SPDR (XLV) lost 1.7%. Stocks such as Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ), Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE:MRK), Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE), Eli Lilly & Co. (NYSE:LLY) and Bristol Myers Squibb Co. (NYSE:BMY) slipped 1.2%, 1.4%, 1.5%, 3.9% and 2.0%, respectively.

Technology bellwether Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) reported its quarterly results on Tuesday after the close of markets. The company’s profit declined for the first time in a decade but came in above the Street’s estimates. Apple said its net income dropped 18% in the fiscal second quarter. Shares of the company slipped 0.2% yesterday.

According to the the U.S. Census Bureau, new orders for manufactured goods fell sharply in March. A sharp decline in orders for durable goods hampered yesterday’s trading session. The report stated that new orders for manufactured goods declined $13.1 billion or 5.7 % to $216.3 billion. This was well below the consensus estimate of a decline of 2.7%. New orders fell 1.4% excluding transportation, and by 4.7% excluding defense. Unfilled orders for manufactured durable goods also decreased 0.6% to $991.2 billion.

The energy sector was the biggest gainer among the S&P 500 industry groups and the Energy Select Sector SPDR (XLE) gained 1.3% due to a recovery in oil prices from a recent fall. Stocks such as Exxon Mobil Corporation (NYSE:XOM), Chevron Corporation (NYSE:CVX), Suncor Energy Inc. (USA) (NYSE:SU), Marathon Oil Corporation (NYSE:MRO) and Anadarko Petroleum Corporation (NYSE:APC) increased 0.2%, 0.7%, 2.5%, 2.2% and 2.2%, respectively.
 

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