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Markets were down across the board today, as a bizarre, premature earnings release by Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) highlighted the day's events. The Dow Jones Industrial Index (INDEX: ^DJI ) fell eight points, to close at 13,548.
Needless to say, Google's results disappointed investors, and the stock immediately fell off a cliff, prompting trading to be halted for a number of hours before finally resuming. Google ended up losing 8% on the day.
The latest figures released on China showed growth slowing for a seventh consecutive quarter. Although it's the slowest annual growth rate in three years, the 7.4% uptick was consistent with expectations. The figures come on the heels of data released Monday showing that inflation in the world's second-largest economy fell to 1.9% in September, which could be a sign that government policies are beginning to work.
The Labor Department also released data on Thursday, reporting that the four week average for initial unemployment claims rose slightly -- by just 750 claims -- to 365,500. In short, although there was no definitively negative macroeconomic news, the Dow still fell, even as 60% of its components actually advanced.
A major reason for the decline was International Business Machines' (NYSE: IBM ) 2.8% tumble. Of the Dow's 30 components, IBM is the most heavily weighted, comprising more than 11% of the index. The company continued to reel from its disappointing quarterly report, which revealed that revenues dropped by 5%.
But the biggest laggard in the Dow was American Express (NYSE: AXP ) , which fell nearly 3%, after its quarterly report showed decelerating growth. A stale 4% increase in sales, a 92% spike in provisions for losses, on top of cautions about a slowdown in consumer spending, combined to disappoint investors.
The index's standout performer on Thursday was Travelers (NYSE: TRV ) , which rose more than 3.5%, to close at an all-time high. EPS in the quarter more than doubled from last year's number, as earnings came in at $2.22 per share. The insurance company was able to retain customers despite some recently instituted price hikes, helping it to beat estimates.
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