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The Markets Now: Tech Stocks Hurt by Downgrades and Earnings Misses


Plus, the Cyprus debt crisis remains unresolved.

Stocks have remained lower today as no bailout solution has emerged for Cyprus's debt crisis. The European Central Bank issued an ultimatum to Cypress: The island country must create a plan to raise $7.5 billion by next Monday to receive an international bailout package worth $13 billion.

The Dow (INDEXDJX:.DJI) fell 0.77% to 14,399.58. The S&P 500 (INDEXSP:.INX) dropped 0.86% to 1,545.38, and the Nasdaq (INDEXNASDAQ:.IXIC) fell 1.04% to 3,220.21. The Labor Department reported that initial jobless claims climbed by 2,000 to 336,000 in the March 16 week. The four-week average dropped 7,500 to 339,750, a new low of the recovery. The continuing unemployment claims increased 5,000 to 3.053 million for the week of March 9, and the four-week average fell 28,000 to 3.078 million, another low for the recovery.

The flash Purchase Managers' Index, or flash PMI, rose 0.6 to 54.9 versus the final February index reading of 54.3. The orders component was 55.9, a 1.5 point gain, and the new export orders component grew 2.7 points to 51.2. The rate of monthly output growth remained flat while the employment component increased 1.1 points to 54.6. Any readings above 50 indicate monthly growth.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency, or FHFA, House Price Index increased 0.6% in January after rising 0.5% in December. The Pacific region saw the largest gain of 1.6% while the New England area saw declines of 0.7%. Year-over-year, prices grew 6.5% in January. The index covers single family housing, using data provided by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index, or CCI, decreased for the first time in six weeks by 2.3 points to -33.9. Only 20% of respondents view the national economy positively, and only 29% describe the buying climate positively. The CCI is a weekly, random sample survey tracking Americans' views on the condition of the US economy, and the index rangers from -100 to 100.

(See also: The Apple iWatch Is a Stunning, Beautiful, and Revolutionary Figment of Your Imagination.)

The Philadelphia Federal Reserve's General Business Conditions Index increased to 2 in March from -12.5 last month. A reading over 0 indicates growth. Analysts had anticipated a reading of -1.5. The new orders component improved to 0.5 while the backlogs component increased from -11.2 to -6.4. The shipments component and and employment components both increased to 3.5 and 2.7 respectively.

The Conference Board Leading Economic Index increased 0.5% in February to 94.8 after an upwardly revised gain of 0.5% in January. Eight of the 10 components showed monthly gains with consumer expectations and manufacturing new orders being the two weaker components.The Conference Board Coincident Economic Index increased in February by 0.2% to 105.1 and the Conference Board Lagging Economic Index climbed 0.1% 118 last month. The Conference Board's indexes measures leading indicators for peaks and troughs in the business cycle.

The Energy Information Administration reported that natural gas in storage fell 62 billion cubic feet last week to 1,876 billion cubic feet, lower than than the expected 70 billion cubic feet drop.

Oracle (NASDAQ:ORCL) fell for a second straight day, dropping 9.17% to $32.49. Credit Agricole, Wedbush, Stifel, and RBC cut their ratings of the company today after its missed analysts expectations for its recent quarter. Its fiscal third-quarter earnings, reported yesterday, stayed flat year-over-year at $2.5 billion, but it increased on a per share basis from $0.49 to $0.52. After excluding stock-based compensation, earnings were $.65 per share; Wall Street expected $0.66. Revenue decreased 0.9% to $8.96 billion. The company blamed poor sales execution for the miss and stated that its hardware business segment will continue to shrink.

(See also: Stock Downgrades: Oracle Has a Profit Problem.)

Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO) rose 3.05% to $22.77. The Internet company announced today that it acquired Jybe, a small mobile startup founded by former Yahoo employees. The cost of the deal will remain undisclosed, and Yahoo will shut down the Jybe's app and have the five engineers and data scientists work on Yahoo's product line-up.

Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO) fell 4.22% to $20.75. FBR Capital Markets analyst Scott Thompson cut his rating of the technology company to Underperform, the equivalent of a sell rating. Thompson believes demand will struggle to offset the weaker demand for routers and switching products as the company transitions to offering software and services. His price target dropped from $22 to $17.

SUPERVALU (NYSE:SVU) climbed 9.31% to $4.58. The company announced the sale of five of its grocery chains to Cerberus Capital Management for $3.3 billion. SUPERVALU also announced it will have a new chairman and board members.

Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) dropped 1.57% to $22.56. The computer and hardware company announced it will raise its quarterly dividend by 10% to $0.145. Shareholders almost ousted Hewlett-Packard Chairman Ray Lane and other directors in a shareholder vote yesterday.
Twitter: @ChrisWitrak
Position in CSCO.
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