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U.S. Stocks Continue to Stall

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01/08/2013 | 01:06pm CEST

--Stocks end lower as investors await the start of earnings-reporting season

--European markets waver as encouraging retail sales and confidence data help offset a rise in unemployment

--Small-business confidence ticks up slightly more than expected

NEW YORK--Stocks fell for a second day Tuesday, weighed down by telecommunications and industrial shares, as investors awaited the start of the corporate earnings season.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average shed 55.44 points, or 0.4%, to 13328.85 on Tuesday. The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index gave up 4.74 points, or 0.3%, to 1457.15, extending its slide from a five-year closing high Friday. The Nasdaq Composite Index slipped 7.01 points, or 0.2%, to 3091.81.

"One thing is clear: Although we are expecting earnings growth, you're just not going to continue to see that stellar double-digit earnings growth that you had seen in the past couple of years," said Joseph Tanious, global market strategist at J.P. Morgan Funds.

Alcoa (>> Alcoa Inc.)--the first Dow component to report results--unofficially kicked off earnings season after the close of trading Tuesday. The world's largest aluminum maker swung to a fourth-quarter profit as it benefited from cost-cutting efforts, though revenue edged down as aluminum prices remained low.

Boeing (>> The Boeing Company) weighed on the industrial sector and paced declines among Dow Components as it slid $2, or 2.6%, to $74.13. A fuel leak on one of the aerospace company's 787 Dreamliner aircrafts headed from Boston to Tokyo with 178 passengers on board was returned to the terminal.

Seven of eight telecom stocks in the S&P 500 traded lower, with MetroPCS Communications (>> MetroPCS Communications Inc) slumping 2.4%, to extend a two-day slide to 4.1% after reporting Monday weak subscriber figures in the fourth quarter.

GameStop (>> GameStop Corp.) slipped $1.56, or 6.3%, to $23.19 after the videogame retailer said weak store traffic drove crucial holiday same-store sales down 4.4%, prompting the company to trim the high end of its fourth-quarter earnings guidance.

Yum Brands (>> Yum! Brands, Inc.) dropped $2.85, or 4.2%, to $65.04 after warning its same-store sales in China would fall more than expected. A government review of China poultry supply weighed on sales at Yum's KFC restaurants there, the fast-food chain operator said.

"It's the start of the earnings season and I think a lot of people are concerned about how that will start to shake out," said Randy Bateman, chief investment officer at Huntington Asset Advisors, which manages $14.5 billion in assets.

Congress's last-minute deal to avert mandatory spending cuts and tax increases left a host of issues unresolved, some market watchers have warned, setting the stage for further fighting in Washington that could rattle stocks.

The National Association of Independent Business's small-business optimism index for December rose more than economists had expected. U.S. consumers' overall borrowing expanded in November at a quicker pace than the previous month. The growth topped economists' projections.

European markets ended mostly lower, with the Stoxx Europe 600 down 0.1%.

Asian markets fell on the heels of U.S. weakness Monday, with Japanese exporters' shares hurt by a stronger yen. Japan's Nikkei Stock Average and Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index both shed 0.9%.

Crude-oil prices fell less than 0.1%, to settle at $93.15 a barrel, while gold added 1%, to settle at $1,661.50 a troy ounce. The dollar gained ground against the euro but slipped versus the yen. The 10-year Treasury note rose in price following last week's drop, sending the yield down to 1.871%.

In the corporate arena, Monsanto (>> Monsanto Company) bucked the broader market trend, climbing $2.56, or 2.7%, to $98.50, after the agricultural-products company reported better-than-expected fiscal first-quarter results and raised its full-year profit forecast. The seed company cited strength in Latin American corn and U.S. seeds and traits businesses.

Star Scientific (>> Star Scientific, Inc.) climbed 22 cents, or 8%, to $2.96 after the company reported positive preliminary results from a study of its treatment for patients with autoimmune disease of the thyroid.

Perion Network (>> Perion Network Ltd) jumped $1.90, or 20%, to $11.35 after the developer of consumer Internet applications said it expected fourth-quarter revenue to exceed expectations and provided a 2013 earnings and sales outlook that was above analysts' projections.

Acuity Brands (>> Acuity Brands, Inc.) dropped $3.51, or 5.1%, to $64.46 after reporting fiscal first-quarter earnings that sharply missed analyst expectations as the lighting company saw margins squeezed by higher input costs.

Kaitlyn Kiernan contributed to this article.

Write to Matt Jarzemsky at [email protected]

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