Today's news from the financial markets was mixed regarding the U.S. economic outlook, with rising confidence levels from homebuilders inching closer to outright optimism. Moreover, prices at the wholesale level posted another sharp drop in April following a similar decline in March that brought year-over-year price gains to just 0.6%. Yet those developments were offset by a bigger-than-expected drop in industrial production and an unexpected decline in New York regional manufacturing activity, which helped restrain the stock market. As of 10:55 a.m. EDT, the Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) are down a mere five points. The broader market is also flat, signaling a pause in the latest record-breaking run for the S&P 500 and Dow in recent weeks.
Leading the decliners in the Dow is Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ ) , which has fallen 2.1%. IDC released projections forecasting a slower rate of growth in worldwide IT spending. This could pose a threat to HP's turnaround strategy, which hinges on its ability to widen its customer base and pull in revenue from a broader range of business segments. IDC blamed weak PC shipments for the slowdown, confirming a separate report showing a decline of more than 20% in Western European PC shipments during the first quarter of 2013 compared with the year-ago quarter. HP will need to accelerate its efforts to go beyond PCs if it wants to grow faster in the future.
Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT ) has dropped 1.1% after heavy-equipment peer Deere (NYSE: DE ) reported earnings this morning. Deere has fallen more than 5% despite beating estimates for its first-quarter results, as investors instead focused on a weakening sales forecast. Although Deere's agricultural-equipment focus leaves it somewhat more exposed to unpredictable events like weather and crop prices, Caterpillar shares the same general vulnerability to overall economic conditions that have led some customers to defer making large capital expenditures. Without a broader-based recovery, Caterpillar may continue to lag.
Finally, outside the Dow, Zynga (NASDAQ: ZNGA ) has soared almost 7% after hedge fund Jana Partners reported taking a 25 million-share stake in the social-gaming company. With today marking the date on which money managers are required to disclose their holdings, you can expect to see a lot of attention on the moves influential Wall Street pros are making. For Zynga, a vote of confidence is much-needed support for a stock that has languished ever since its post-IPO optimism gave way to poor results.
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