Most U.S. Stocks Retreat

Most U.S. stocks fell as the Federal Reserve cut its forecast for the economy this year, while government reports showed industrial production shrank more than forecast and housing starts slid to a record low last month., Bloomberg 2/18/2009 1:54:35 PM

United Technologies Corp. and Caterpillar Inc. retreated as the Fed predicted the economy will contract as much as 1.3 percent this year. Wells Fargo & Co., Bank of America Corp. and Citigroup Inc. slid at least 4.6 percent as President Barack Obama’s plan to stem home foreclosures failed to assuage concern banks face more losses. Comcast Corp. lost 4.1 percent as the largest U.S. cable company said subscriber growth slowed.

Two stocks retreated for each that rose on the New York Stock Exchange. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index slipped 0.1 percent to 788.42. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 3.03 points, or less than 0.1 percent, to 7,555.63 after earlier falling below its lowest close since 2002. The Russell 2000 Index decreased 1.3 percent.

The S&P 500 yesterday tumbled below 800 for the first time since November as a record contraction in New York manufacturing spurred concern the government’s stimulus package won’t be enough to curb the deepening recession.

The S&P 500 posted its biggest decline since 1937 last year, falling to an 11-year low on Nov. 20, as lending froze amid more than $1 trillion in worldwide bank losses stemming from the worst real-estate slump since the Great Depression.

New home construction fell to a record-low annual rate of 466,000 in January, Commerce Department data today showed. A Fed report said industrial output slid 1.8 percent in January. Both figures were worse than the average economist forecast.

An index of S&P 500 financial companies declined to a 14- year low. The group, the worst performing of the index’s 10 main industries the past two years, fell 0.2 percent, extending its year-to-date drop to 37 percent.

Stocks in Europe and Asia declined today as the deepening recession hurt corporate earnings. The Dow Jones Stoxx 600 Index slipped 0.3 percent, while the MSCI Asia Pacific Index dropped 1.5 percent.