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US: Stocks retreat, banking shares lead decline

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[NEW YORK] Wall Street stocks finished lower Friday following profit taking in banking shares and some other equities that had scored big gains in the post-election rally.

Bank of America lost 2.2 per cent and Goldman Sachs shed 1.7 per cent in reversals of the large gains seen since the November 8 election prompted a big rally in the sector.

Analysts also cited a disappointing home construction report, which showed a steeper decline than expected in new residential building in November.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dipped less than 0.1 per cent at 19,843.41.

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The broad-based S&P 500 shed 0.2 per cent to 2,258.07, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index declined 0.4 per cent to 5,437.16.

Software company Oracle slumped 4.4 per cent after reporting a 7.5 per cent decline in second-quarter earnings to US$2.0 billion. Some analysts expressed disappointment with the company's outlook.

Gilead Sciences shed 1.9 per cent after a US jury ordered it to pay US$2.5 billion to competitor Merck in a patent infringement case involving a drug used to treat hepatitis C. Merck rose 0.1 per cent. Gilead said it would appeal the ruling.

Chipotle Mexican Grill rose 2.5 per cent as it appointed four new directors to its board, winning praise from activist investor Bill Ackman as the burrito chain tries to reignite sales after a series of food-safety problems.

General Electric rose 1.6 per cent following an upgrade from investment firm Bernstein.