NEW YORK – Disappointing earnings from a range of companies pushed the stock market lower Thursday, giving major indexes their third loss this week.
The stock prices of Morgan Stanley, UnitedHealth Group and others sank after they turned in weak quarterly results. Prices of commodities held steady following a wild couple of days. Government bond yields remained near their lowest point of the year as investors sought safety.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 index lost 10.40 points to close at 1,541.61, a decline of 0.7 percent.
Compared with the steep drops earlier this week, the losses on Thursday looked tame. The S&P 500 lost 2 percent on Monday, its worst day of the year, when a slowdown in China’s economic growth set off a rout in prices for gold, oil and other commodities and pummeled the stocks of companies that make them. After reaching a record high a week ago, the index has now slumped 3 percent.
One reason behind the market’s sudden turn might simply be that investors wanted to take some of their winnings off the table, said Joseph Tanious, global market strategist at J.P. Morgan Funds. At the start of April, the S&P 500 was already up 10 percent for 2013.
“For a while there, it seemed like all the headlines were ‘stock market hits all-time high,’” he said. “When they see things like that, investors get nervous and look for reasons to sell.”
The market didn’t get any help from economic news Thursday. Investors pointed to reports that more people applied for unemployment benefits last week and manufacturing slowed in the mid-Atlantic region.