While its two peer indexes finished the day essentially unchanged, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 0.3% as AT&T Procter & Gamble sank the blue chips following earning releases. Durable-goods orders for March were down significantly, falling 5.7% against an expected drop of 3.1%, and February's increase was also revised downward. It was the worst drop orders in seven months for products like cars, appliances, and furniture, and the category fell 1.4% excluding the more volatile transportation segments. Stocks were up Europe and Asia earlier, but concern about earnings and the durable-goods report seems to have dampened any carryover effect.
After reporting earnings last night, AT&T shares finished down 5% and fell another 1.5% after hours. Investors were disappointed that Ma Bell reported losing a net total of 69,000 cell phone subscribers. The country's No. 2 telecom made strong gains on tablet data plans, but that wasn't even to avert concerns that its bigger rival, Verizon, was leaving it in the dust. EPS were in line with estimates at $0.64, but revenue fell by 1% in the quarter, a bigger drop than expected.
Procter & Gamble was the Dow's other big loser, falling 5.9%, its worst single-day drop since January 2009 as the consumer-goods manufacturer disappointed Wall Street with its forecast. Adjusted earnings of $0.99 actually beat estimates of $0.96, but it saw per-share profits come in below estimates of $0.81, as the detergent-maker saw weak international growth and increased marketing costs. Revenue grew 2%, slightly below estimates, and P&G also cut 6,250 jobs in the quarter.
Boeing was one Dow stock bucking the overall trend, finishing up 3% after posting a better-than-expected earnings report despite its problems with its 787 Dreamliner Jet. Sales of its 777 grew swiftly, and its defense unit also showed expanded margins and set a record backlog of $392 billion. For the quarter, Boeing turned in per-share profit $1.44, below expectations of $1.48, and revenue dropped 2.5%, but investors seemed to have adjusted their expectations considering the 787 snafu.
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