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While you were sleeping: Wall St pauses after Dow peaks

By Margreet Dietz

Jan. 19 (BusinessDesk) - Wall Street was mixed, after the Dow rose to a record high earlier in the day, as the latest corporate earnings proved a mixed bag too.

While Morgan Stanley’s quarterly results exceeded expectations, those of Alcoa failed to meet the mark. Morgan Stanley shares rose 0.3 percent in early afternoon trading in New York, while those of Alcoa slumped 8.6 percent.

In 1.19pm trading in New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average slid 0.4 percent. However, the Nasdaq Composite Index inched 0.04 percent higher. In 1.04pm trading, the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index fell 0.2 percent.

The Dow slid as declines in shares of Boeing and those of General Electric, recently down 2.5 percent and 2 percent respectively, outweighed gains in shares of Wal-Mart and those of UnitedHealth Group, each recently up 1.2 percent.

Earlier in the session the Dow touched a record high 26,153.42.

“This might just be a little bit of a pullback, especially after yesterday’s significant gain, until we get further into the earnings season,” Lindsey Bell, investment strategist at CFRA Research in New York, told Reuters.

US Treasuries declined. The yield on 10-year Treasuries climbed above 2.6 percent for the first time since March, according to Bloomberg.

The latest US economic data were mixed as well. A Commerce Department showed housing starts dropped 8.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.192 million units in December.

“Housing starts were held down by the cold winter weather but should bounce back quickly in coming months as the country warms up from this recent cold spell,” Chris Rupkey, chief economist at MUFG in New York, told Reuters.

Separately, a Labour Department showed initial claims for state unemployment benefits fell 41,000 to a seasonally adjusted 220,000 for the week ended January 13, the lowest level since 1973.

In Europe, the Stoxx 600 Index ended the day with a 0.2 percent gain from the previous close. Germany’s DAX Index climbed 0.7 percent, while France’s CAC40 Index eked out a 0.02 percent increase.

The UK’s FTSE 100 index slipped 0.3 percent.

Meanwhile, shares of Whitbread closed 3.5 percent higher in London. The UK company said on Thursday it had an open mind about its future structure after pressure from an activist investor to consider splitting its Costa Coffee business from its hotel and restaurant operations, Reuters reported.

Investor Sachem Head, which disclosed a 3.4 percent stake in Whitbread last month, was pushing the FTSE 100 company to consider a break-up, Reuters reported on Wednesday, citing two people familiar with the matter.

In response, Whitbread Chief Executive Alison Brittain said the board continuously looked at how the group is organised, according to Reuters.

"We remain entirely open-minded about the structure of the business and are fully committed to reviewing it on a regular basis at the board level," Brittain told reporters.


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