Stocks slip on mixed earnings, weak new home sales

BERNARD CONDON
Associated Press
FILE-- A June 25, 2012 file photo shows Specialist Christopher Trotta working on the floor of the New York Stock. Wall Street was poised for a muted open Tuesday June 26, 2012, with both Dow futures and the broader S&P 500 futures up 0.2 percent.   A parade of grim news sent investors fleeing stocks for a third straight day on Tuesday July 24, 2012. (AP Photo/Richard Drew/file)
FILE-- A June 25, 2012 file photo shows Specialist Christopher Trotta working on the floor of the New York Stock. Wall Street was poised for a muted open Tuesday June 26, 2012, with both Dow futures and the broader S&P 500 futures up 0.2 percent. A parade of grim news sent investors fleeing stocks for a third straight day on Tuesday July 24, 2012. (AP Photo/Richard Drew/file)

NEW YORK (AP) — A sharp drop in new home sales and weak earnings reports from big U.S. companies, including a rare stumble from Apple, are pushing stocks mostly lower Wednesday.

The Standard & Poor's 500 slipped three points to 1,335 shortly after noon. The technology-heavy Nasdaq composite fell 11 points to 2,852. The Nasdaq's biggest component, Apple, dropped $27.88 to $573.04, a loss of 4.6 percent.

The Dow was up 31 points at 12,649. The Dow is coming off three triple-digit losses in a row.

Boeing, a Dow component, surprised analysts with higher earnings. The aircraft maker also raised its profit forecast for all of 2012. Its stock rose $1.63, or 2.3 percent, to $73.66.

The Commerce Department said sales of new homes plunged 8 percent last month to the slowest pace in five months. Sales in the Northeastern U.S. plummeted 60 percent. The steep decline suggests a weaker job market is dampening any pickup in the industry.

"Housing is not really recovering, it's bottoming," said Steven Ricchiuto, chief economist at Mizuho Securities, a brokerage firm. "That's still a problem with the economy."

After the new home sales number was released at 10 a.m., the stock market gave up an early gain and turned mixed. Home builders were hit particularly hard. Beazer Homes fell 11 cents, or 4.4 percent, to $2.37. KB Home lost 30 cents, or 3 percent, to $9.33.

Netflix plummeted $19.49 to $60.90, a loss of 24 percent. The video subscription company reported late Tuesday that its net income plunged 91 percent in the latest quarter. Netflix's licensing fees are rising and the company is facing stiff competition from other video providers.

In Europe, stock indexes were mostly higher. A European Central Bank policymaker said the region's bailout fund should be given the power to borrow money from the central bank, increasing its financial resources. That would be necessary if Spain asked for a bailout.

The yield on the Spain's 10-year government bond fell to 7.37 percent from 7.53 percent late Tuesday. That's a positive sign that investors are slightly less worried about Spain's ability to repay its debts.

Borrowing costs for Spain have risen to dangerously high levels in recent days as investors fear that the country will have no choice but join Greece, Portugal and Ireland in asking for a financial lifeline to pay its bills.

In other U.S. corporate news, WellPoint, the nation's second largest insurer, lowered its earnings forecast. Its stock fell $7.48, or 12 percent, $53.94, the biggest one-day drop for the stock in more than three years. The insurer said enrollment has been slipping as companies cut jobs.