Behind Today's Dreary Dow

Markets slipped Thursday after unflattering manufacturing numbers shed doubts on the strength of the economic recovery. As companies seek to lower inventories, production in New York and Philadelphia slipped, and with sub-2% annual GDP growth projected in the second quarter, Wall Street didn't have much to applaud today. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) lost 81 points, or about 0.6%, to close at 14,537. 

Leading the index today was Verizon Communications (NYSE: VZ  ) , which added 2.8% to lead the Dow. The company owns 55% of Verizon Wireless, with the other 45% owned by telecom peer Vodafone. Verizon's first quarter results today, which saw revenue rise 6.8% to nearly $20 billion, gave investors hope that this financial stability will allow it to buy out Vodafone's stake and gain full ownership of Verizon Wireless.

Chip maker Intel (NASDAQ: INTC  ) ended as one of the Dow's brighter spots, as well. Taking a cue from rival Advanced Micro Devices, Intel tacked on 1.4% after AMD issued a sunny forecast that beat analyst projections. Hearing a positive outlook from an industry peer offered some validation of Intel's own optimistic expectations, which surprised the markets on Tuesday, sending shares 2.5% higher.

Lest we forget the dismal performance of the markets Thursday, UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH  ) offered one sober reminder of why they fell, as it tumbled 3.8%. The largest health insurer in the U.S. issued guidance of its own, cautioning that budget cuts would negatively impact earnings this year. The ensuing anxiety about what effects the sequester would have on other health insurers even sent shares in some of UnitedHealth's rivals into bearish territory.

Lastly, Bank of America's (NYSE: BAC  ) 2.2% slide today marks continued fallout from its quarterly call, which resulted in shares plummeting nearly 5% yesterday. No one doubts that B of A is in better shape than it was a year ago; the company is shoring up its balance sheet and addressing litigation from the financial crisis. But a sluggish showing from its mortgage banking business in the first quarter is a major reason for the bank's two-day slump.


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