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Stocks down on economic data

Traders work on the floor of the New

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange earlier this month. (May 7, 2013) Credit: AP

Signs of a slowing economy combined with comments from a Federal Reserve official helped pull the stock market down Thursday.

The news on the U.S. economy gave investors little to get excited about. Applications for unemployment benefits rose last week, and manufacturing slowed in the mid-Atlantic region. Wal-Mart Stores shares sank after it warned of weaker earnings ahead.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 42.47 points to 15,233.22. The Standard & Poor's 500 index dropped 0.50 percent to 1,650.47. Both indexes closed at record highs the day before. The Nasdaq composite index closed at 3,465.24, a drop of 0.18 percent.

John Williams, head of the Federal Reserve's San Francisco branch, told an audience Thursday that the Fed could end its bond-buying program this year. But Williams' comments made clear that the Fed would only curtail its stimulus effort when the economy looked strong enough

Companies have reported record quarterly profits this earnings season.

But revenue has looked weak: Six out of every 10 companies in the S&P 500 have missed forecasts. Without higher sales, companies are getting more of their profits from laying off staff and other cost-cutting moves.

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