Stocks fall…Weekly jobless claims hit 7-year low…Factory output drops

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are falling in early trading on Wall Street after some disappointing economic data and a couple bad earnings reports from the retail industry. Wal-Mart shares fell 2.5 percent after the retail giant reported a 5 percent profit decline in its most recent quarter and warned that things don’t look much better this quarter. Kohl’s also fell sharply after reporting a 15 percent drop in first-quarter earnings.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits has fallen to the lowest level in seven years. The Labor Department says unemployment benefit applications dropped by 24,000 last week to 297,000, the fewest since May 12, 2007. The less volatile four-week average dipped 2,000 to 323,250.

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. factory output slid last month after two months of strong growth. Manufacturers produced less furniture, machinery and plastics. The Federal Reserve says factory production in April dropped 0.4 percent from the previous month after rising a revised 0.7 percent in March and 1.5 percent in February. Overall industrial output, which includes manufacturing, mining and utilities, fell 0.6 percent in April. Output at utilities plunged 5.3 percent; households used less heat as temperatures rose.

WASHINGTON (AP) — There’s more evidence that inflation is ticking up. Higher food and gas costs pushed up U.S. consumer prices in April by the most in 10 months. The Labor Department says the consumer price index rose 0.3 percent last month. Food prices jumped 0.4 percent for the third straight month, driven by the largest increase in the cost of meat in 10 years. Gas prices rose 2.3 percent. Excluding the volatile food and energy categories, core prices rose 0.2 percent in April.

UNDATED (AP) — U.S. homebuilders are feeling less confident in their near-term sales prospects after a sluggish start to the spring home-selling season. The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index fell to 45 this month. That’s down one point from a revised reading of 46 in April. Readings below 50 indicate that more builders view sales conditions as poor rather than good. Still, builders’ outlook improved for sales of single-family homes over the next six months and traffic by prospective buyers.

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