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US: Stocks edge lower on mixed earnings, Greece worries


[NEW YORK] US stocks finished barely lower on Thursday following mixed earnings and lackluster economic data as worries about Greece's finances returned to the forefront.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 6.84 points (0.04 per cent) to 18,105.77.

The broad-based S&P 500 dipped 1.64 (0.08 per cent) to 2,104.99, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index shed 3.23 (0.06 per cent) at 5,007.79.

New construction of homes in the United States rose 2.0 per cent to an annual rate of 926,000 units, the Commerce Department said, a smaller increase than expected.

Initial claims for US unemployment insurance benefits rose to 294,000 last week, their highest level in six weeks and well above estimates, according to Labour Department data.

Equity markets in Britain, France and Germany fell sharply on concerns about slow progress in bailout negotiations between Greece and international creditors. International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde played down talk of Greece delaying its debt payment to the Fund next month.

Citigroup gained 1.5 per cent after first-quarter net income rose about 21 per cent to US$4.8 billion on lower expenses.

Netflix surged 18.2 per cent after reporting that global subscriptions rose above 60 million in the first quarter. Net income fell to US$24 million from US$53 million a year ago, due in part to the strong dollar.

Dow member Disney advanced 1.1 per cent on buzz for its new Star Wars movie. The studio released a trailer for the film featuring Harrison Ford and others.

Tobacco giant Philip Morris International shot up 8.7 per cent after lifting its 2015 forecast following a better-than-expected first quarter.

Brooklyn, New York-based firm Etsy nearly doubled in value in its first day of trade, rising 87.5 per cent. The online company bills itself as the "antidote to mass manufacturing" by selling handmade and vintage goods.

Pharmaceutical company Teva lost 3.8 per cent on news the US Food and Drug Administration approved a generic version of Copaxone, Teva's drug to treat multiple sclerosis.

Restaurant chain Panera Bread surged 11.6 per cent as it increased its share repurchase program to US$750 million and said it reached agreements to sell and refranchise 73 company-owned sites.

Bond prices were mixed. The yield on the 10-year US Treasury dipped to 1.89 per cent from 1.90 per cent, while the 30-year rose to 2.57 per cent from 2.55 per cent. Bond prices and yields move inversely.