Stocks record first two-day loss in July

Specialists Christopher Gildea, left, and Joseph Dreyer, confer

Specialists Christopher Gildea, left, and Joseph Dreyer, confer at their posts on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange Monday. (July 22, 2013) Photo Credit: AP

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A gloomy outlook from Caterpillar, the world's largest construction equipment company, tugged the stock market lower Wednesday. The meager drop gave the stock market two consecutive days of losses, the first time that's happened in an otherwise strong month.

Caterpillar's earnings fell 43 percent in the second quarter as China's economy slowed and commodity prices sank. The company also warned of slowing revenue and profit, and its stock dropped $2.08 to $83.44.

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Slight losses spread across a wide variety of companies, with nine of 10 industry groups in the Standard & Poor's 500 index ending lower. The S&P index fell 0.38 percent to 1,685.94. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 25.50 points to 15,542.24.

Technology companies got a lift from Apple's surging stock. Despite reporting lower quarterly earnings Tuesday, the maker of tablets, smartphones and computers still managed to beat analysts' estimates, thanks to rising shipments of iPhones. Apple jumped $21.52, or 5.14 percent, to $440.51.

The technology-heavy Nasdaq composite index edged up 0.33 of a point to 3,579.60.

In Europe, a broad gauge of economic activity reached the highest level since January 2012, sending stock markets in Germany and France higher. -- AP

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