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US: Stocks retreat as earnings results offset ECB stimulus plan

[NEW YORK] US stocks fell on Friday, trimming the first weekly gain of 2015, as weaker-than-forecast results at companies from United Parcel Service Inc. to Kimberly-Clark offset confidence that central banks will support global growth.

UPS slumped 9.9 per cent as it said preliminary 2014 earnings were lower than previously forecast, after an over- expanded program to handle a deluge of holiday shipments. Bank of New York Mellon and State Street led financial shares lower after both said the falling euro hurt revenue from the region. Kimberly-Clark dropped 6.1 per cent after forecasting 2015 earnings that missed estimates.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 0.6 per cent to 2,051.82, paring a weekly gain to 1.6 per cent. The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 141.38 points, or 0.8 per cent, to 17,672.60. The Nasdaq composite index gained 0.2 per cent. The Stoxx Europe 600 index rallied 1.7 per cent a day after the European Central Bank expanded its stimulus plan.

"The bigger picture is that we had a pretty sizable move in the market the day before," Kevin Caron, who helps oversee US$170 billion at Stifel Nicolaus in Florham Park, New Jersey, said in a phone interview. "The market is still assessing the recent actions by the ECB, trying to figure out how much of that action was already priced into markets going into the meeting and what it might mean for markets going forward." About 6.5 billion shares changed hands on US exchanges Friday, in line with the three-month average. Selling accelerated in the final 30 minutes of trading as materials producers extended declines to 1.6 per cent and investors anticipated the results of an election in Greece on Sunday. Opinion polls show the anti-austerity party may win enough votes to take power.

Equities had earlier pared declines after ECB Executive Board member Benoit Coeure told Bloomberg TV that policy makers are prepared to extend asset purchases beyond September 2016 if the inflation outlook warrants it. The ECB on Thursday unveiled a plan to buy 60 billion euros (US$69 billion) a month in bonds through that time.

The S&P 500 gained 1.6 per cent this week and briefly erased its losses for the year following two retreats that lasted five days amid tumbling oil prices and concerns that the global economy is slowing. The index is about 1.9 per cent from its all-time high reached Dec 29.

US stocks rose for a fourth day on Thursday, extending the longest rally of the year, as the ECB expanded an asset-purchase program to include government bonds. Banks and transportation companies also pushed benchmark gauges higher on better-than-forecast earnings.

ECB President Mario Draghi said the central bank plans to buy up to 1.14 trillion euros (US$1.3 trillion) of private and public securities. A near-stagnant economy and the risk of deflation forced Draghi's hand six years after the Federal Reserve took a similar step to inject cash into the US.

"The ECB is still going to be at the forefront over the next few trading days," Matt Maley, an equity strategist at Miller Tabak in Newton, Massachusetts, said in a phone interview. "People are still trying to digest this bazooka blast. Obviously earnings will become more of a focus as well but the key is we need follow-through. It was a nice rally yesterday, but we've had a lot of one-day rallies that didn't really pan out." In the US, three rounds of Fed stimulus helped the S&P 500 more than triple from a bear-market low in March 2009. The central bank ended its quantitative easing program three months ago.

Among data Friday, the Conference Board's index of U.S. leading economic indicators, a gauge of the outlook for the next three to six months, increased 0.5 per cent in December.

Purchases of previously owned US homes rose less than forecast in December as higher prices limited sales to first- time buyers. The Markit Economics preliminary index of US manufacturing cooled in January to a one-year low of 53.7 from a final reading of 53.9 a month earlier. A figure greater than 50 for the purchasing managers' measure indicates expansion.

The Chicago Board Options Exchange volatility index, known as the VIX, rose for the first time in five days, dropping 1.6 per cent to 16.66 after closing Thursday at the lowest level of the year.

Eight of the 10 main groups in the S&P 500 retreated Friday, with raw materials companies declining 1.6 per cent to pace declines.

Freeport-McMoRan retreated 3.9 per cent to halt a four- day rally as copper capped its third straight weekly drop amid signs of slowing growth in China. Freeport has fallen 18 percent this year.

The Dow Jones transportation average slipped 1.8 per cent to halt a four-day streak after rallying the most since October on Thursday.

UPS fell the most since 2006 after it said 2014 earnings were below prior forecasts as an overexpanded program to handle a deluge of holiday shipments left its network underutilized on some other days.

FedEx lost 3 percent even after reaffirming its 2015 forecast in the wake of UPS's outlook.

Eight companies listed on the S&P 500 posted results Friday. Of the companies that have reported quarterly earnings so far, 77 percent have exceeded projections after analysts reduced their estimates. Profit at S&P 500 companies climbed 1.1 per cent in the last three months of 2014, analysts predict, down from an October estimate of 8.1 per cent.

The S&P 500 is trading at about 17 times the projected earnings of its members, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Valuations reached a five-year high at the end of last year.

Currency fluctuations roiled banks, as the euro tumbled to an 11-year low and the Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index rallied to the highest close on record. Bank of New York Mellon and State Street said Friday that a failing euro is cutting revenue from the region and may increase fees for excess deposits in Europe if rates there fall further. State Street plunged 6.1 per cent, while Bank of New York dropped 4.7 per cent.

Kimberly-Clark lost 6.2 per cent as it lowered its outlook for the full year, citing "significant headwinds" from foreign-exchange rates. Difficulty exchanging U.S. dollars for Venezuelan bolivars will cost the company US$462 million as falling oil prices increase pressure on Venezuela's economy and amplify the currency's lack of liquidity.

Ford said it will also take a charge, causing its fourth quarter profits to decrease by US$700 million, in order to revalue its bolivar-denominated assets. Ford fell 0.8 per cent.

Avon declined 7.9 per cent, retracing part of a 19 per cent rally Thursday following a report by Dealreporter that the company held talks with TPG Capital about a possible transaction.

Starbucks climbed 6.6 per cent to a record. The world's biggest coffee-shop chain is expanding its lunch offerings and bringing beer and wine to more stores, aiming to draw more customers after the morning hours.

Honeywell added 3.1 per cent to an all- time high after it posted fourth quarter profits that surpassed analysts' estimates. A strong US economy drove sales of the technology and manufacturing company's security systems and thermostats.

E*Trade jumped 8.4 per cent to a 10-month high, increasing the most among companies on the S&P 500. The company said Thursday afternoon it will be allowed to run its bank with a more favorable leverage ratio.

General Electric led the Dow, rising 0.8 per cent for a fifth consecutive day, as rising sales in its power and water business helped fourth-quarter profit beat analysts' estimates.

WP