Earnings Season Heats Up, but Dow Cools Off

Stocks continued to fall today on some disappointing economic data, and some earnings misses. As a result, The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) finished down 0.6%. The Philadelphia Fed's manufacturing report for the mid-Atlantic region showed a reading of 1.3 in April, its first drop in seven months. Economists had expected an improvement from 2.0 in March, to 2.5. Meanwhile, initial unemployment claims last week totaled 352,000, slightly below expectations of 355,000, but still above last week's total, and seems to indicate that the downward trend a few weeks ago has stalled. The two reports seem to confirm that federal budget cuts and the payroll tax hike are slowing the economic recovery. Disappointing guidance from eBay last night also seems to hint at slower-than-expected consumption.

Four Dow stocks reported earnings today with Verizon (NYSE: VZ  ) and UnitedHealth (NYSE: UNH  ) releasing in the morning, and Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT  ) and IBM (NYSE: IBM  ) coming in after hours.

UnitedHealth shares were under the weather today, falling 3.8%, after the insurance giant said it could get hit by Medicare cuts, which could be reduced by as much as 4%. That revenue would come on top of expected cost increases. For the first quarter, UnitedHealth said earnings dropped 14%, to $1.16 a share, but ahead of expectations of $1.14. Revenue grew 11%, to $30.34, slightly below, and the insurer maintained its full-year forecast of $5.25-$5.50 a share. The analyst consensus sits at $5.51 a share.

Verizon, meanwhile, jumped 2.8% to a 12-year high after the nation's No. 1 wireless provider reported wireless revenue increasing at a rapid pace. Earnings per share moved up from $0.58 a share year ago, to $0.69 a share, and revenue improved 4%. Analysts had expected just $0.66 a share. The telecom's number of smartphone activations dropped from 9.8 million in Q4 2012, to 7.2 million in Q1 2013, helping to beef up profits, as those phones often come with subsidies from the provider.

After hours, Microsoft shares jumped 2.6% after the Windows-maker topped Wall Street estimates with a $0.72 profit per share on expectations of $0.68 a share. Adjusting for deferred revenue, sales increased 8% in the quarter, to $19.8 billion. Microsoft also touted a new release of a seven-inch tablet, soon to hit the market, designed to compete with the iPad Mini and Kindle Fire.

IBM was not as lucky, though, as shares were off 4.4% after hours. The tech-services specialist reported a 1% drop in net income on delays in software and mainframe sales. For the quarter, IBM earned $2.70 a share, up from $2.61 a year ago, as per-share profits have been inflated due to share buybacks. Revenue also dropped 5% in the period, way below the Street's view, which was no change. Adjusted earnings of $3.00 also missed the analyst consensus at $3.05 a share.

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