Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Stocks: Tech shares in focus May 17, 2011

Stocks were under pressure at Tuesday's open after Hewlett-Packard issued a weak outlook and the government gave a grim read on the housing market.

Hewlett-Packard (HPQ, Fortune 500) reported a 3% increase in sales but warned the current quarter will be hurt by Japanese quake impact and weak PC sales. HP shares fell 7% at the start of trading। The company reported ahead of schedule after a memo about its outlook was leaked late Monday.

The Dow Jones industrial average (INDU) dropped 80 points, or 0.7%, after the opening bell, and the Nasdaq (COMP) slipped 14 points, 0.5%, while the S&P 500 (SPX) lost 6 points, or 0.5%.

U.S. stocks ended a choppy session lower Monday as investors remained focused on oil prices and the debt crisis in Europe.

Tech shares got particularly hit hard, with the Nasdaq falling 1.6% Monday, and big tech names like Amazon (AMZN, Fortune 500), Netflix (NFLX), Yahoo (YHOO, Fortune 500) and eBay (EBAY, Fortune 500) helping push stocks lower।

Trading has been volatile recently as commodities such as oil and silver have fallen sharply from record highs, and investors wait for the conclusion of the Federal Reserve's bond-buying program at the end of June.

Economy: Building permits granted for housing units in April were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 551,000, 4% below the March level. Meanwhile, privately owned housing starts in April were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 523,000, down 10.6% from a year earlier.

Companies: Dow component Wal-Mart Stores (WMT, Fortune 500) reported quarterly income of $3.4 billion and sales of $103 billion, topping analysts' estimates.

Home Depot (HD, Fortune 500) beat forecasts with earnings per share of 50 cents। But the home improvement retailer posted sales of $16.8 billion, a 0.2% decrease from the year-earlier period.

World markets: European stocks were mixed in midday trading as investors shrugged off U.K. inflation data. The April consumer price index in the United Kingdom came in much higher than expected at 4.5%.

Britain's FTSE 100 fell 0.1%, the DAX in Germany slid 1.1% and France's CAC 40 edged up 0.2%.

Asian markets ended mixed after trading in a narrow range. The Shanghai Composite gained 0.1%, the Hang Seng in Hong Kong slipped 0.3%and Japan's Nikkei was unchanged.

Currencies and commodities: The dollar fell against the euro and the British pound but rose 1% against the Japanese yen.

Oil for June delivery slipped 99 cents to $96.38 a barrel.

Gold futures for June delivery fell $11.10 to $1,479.50 an ounce.