Stocks struggle after advance

Wall Street turns mixed as investors hesitate after lifting the market in 6 of the last 7 sessions.

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By staff

NEW YORK ( -- Stocks turned mixed Thursday morning, giving up early gains, as investors showed some caution after pushing markets higher for six of the last seven sessions.

The Dow Jones industrial average (INDU) lost 27 points, or 0.4% in the early going. The S&P 500 (SPX) index fell 3 points, or 0.4%. The Nasdaq composite (COMP) was barely lower.

On Wednesday, stocks rallied after the Federal Reserve said it was pumping more than $1 trillion into the economy.

But after an early move upward Thursday, stocks turned lower, as investors sorted through the morning economic news.

The Philadelphia Fed index, a regional reading on manufacturing, fell to negative 35.0 in March from negative 41.3 in February, indicating the economy remains deep in recession. Economists surveyed by though it would fall to negative 39.0.

The index of leading economic indicators fell 0.4% in February, short of expectations for a drop of 0.6%. LEI rose a revised 0.1% in the previous month.

Stocks have gained in 6 of the last 7 sessions, but market pros caution that it's a bear-market rally and not something more substantial.

"I think it's a short-term bump," said David Jones, chief market strategist at IG Markets in London.

Economy: The government released its weekly report on initial jobless claims for the week ended March 14, showing a decline in claims to 646,000.

That was better than the forecast for 655,000 claims from a consensus of economists surveyed by Jobless claims totaled 658,000 the prior week, according to the government's revised figure. However, continuing claims hit another record high above 5 million.

Companies: Oracle (ORCL, Fortune 500) managed to beat estimates for quarterly sales and profit, and declared its first dividend since going public in 1986, despite overall weakness in the software sector.

The maker of business software announced a 2% increase in total revenue to $5.4 billion in the third quarter, compared to the year-earlier quarter, and a 25% gain in net profit to $1.3 billion, or 26 cents per share, excluding certain items. The company's stock jumped 11% in morning trading.

Citigroup (C, Fortune 500) announced plans to do a reverse stock split. The value of the company's stock has plunged more than 80% over the past year, despite a rally over the past few days. The split has to be approved by shareholders. Shares gained 23% in the morning.

Global markets: Asian stocks ended lower, with Tokyo's Nikkei index down 0.3%. European stocks were higher in midday trading.

Oil: Prices surged $2.83 to $50.97 a barrel, recapturing its higher price from earlier in the week. A day after its biggest one-day drop in more than two decades, the dollar fell further against the euro, the yen and the British pound. To top of page

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