Stocks finally hit a down day today after six straight gains for the broad market as earnings season rolled on and the housing market hit a bump. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) closed off 13 points or 0.1%, while the S&P 500 slipped 0.2% and the Nasdaq dropped 0.8%.
The census bureau reported March new home sales falling 14.5% from February's total to a seasonally adjusted rate of 384,000, an eight-month low that badly missed estimates at 455,000. The slowing sales seem to be a reflection of higher mortgage rates and other factors as the slide was unrelated to the severe winter weather much of the country experienced. The low figure pushed inventory from a five-month supply to six-month one, and was 14% below last March's total. In another negative sign, mortgage applications also fell 3.3% last week according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.
After hours, some big tech names were making headlines as Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL ) shares jumped 8% following its earnings release. Not only did the iPhone-maker beat estimates on top and bottom lines, but it also said it would expand its share buyback program and enact a 7-to-1 stock split. iPhone sales totaled 43.7 million in the quarter, well ahead of analyst expectations of 38 million, driving a 4.5% revenue increase to $45.6 million and a per-share profit of $11.62. Those numbers breezed past Wall Street estimates of $43.5 million and $10.18, respectively, as the addition of carriers in China and Japan, including China Mobile, helped boost sales of its trademark smartphone. Apple also said it would expand its share buyback program from $100 billion to $130 billion by the end of 2015, and would split its stock, making it more affordable for individual investors and eligible for a spot in the Dow. Concerns about Apple's recent lack of innovation remain, but for now, the company has silenced critics and bought itself some time.
Fellow tech titan Facebook (NASDAQ: FB ) was also heading higher after hours, up 3.6% as it posted 72% revenue growth to $2.5 billion on strong mobile growth, better than estimates $2.36 billion. Profits also nearly tripled to $0.34 per share, well ahead of expectations at $0.24. Membership continued to grow as daily active users increased 21% to 802 million and monthly active users improved 15% to 1.28 billion. Mobile usage growth, meanwhiel was even stronger. The results confirm that Facebook has mastered the mobile ad game after initial struggles following its IPO. Touching on the company's recent acquisitions, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the company "made some long term bets on the future while staying focused on executing and improving our core products and business. We're in great position to continue making progress toward our mission." I'd expect the social network to continue its strong growth as Facebook advertising becomes more and more of an integral part of the way many companies do business, and it develops its recent acquisitions.
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