* Oracle shares lose almost 10 pct after weak results
* EU gives Cyprus until Monday to raise funds
* Jobless claims up for week, but falling 4-week average on
* Dow off 0.6 pct; S&P 500 off 0.8 pct, Nasdaq off 1 pct
By Caroline Valetkevitch
NEW YORK, March 21 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks fell on Thursday
as Oracle's revenue fell far short of expectations and worries
intensified about the effect of Cyprus' troubles on the euro
Oracle Corp shares lost 9.7 percent to $32.30, a
day after its revenue disappointment, which it blamed on sales
execution. It was the stock's biggest percentage
drop since December 2011.
Anxiety about Cypriot finances increased after the European
Union gave Cyprus until Monday to raise the billions of euros it
needs to get an international bailout - or face the collapse of
its financial system and likely exit from the euro bloc.
Late in the session, Standard & Poor's lowered
Cyprus' sovereign credit rating.
The latest euro-zone concerns hit the market after weeks of
gains that drove the Dow up to break record highs and lifted the
S&P 500 to within striking distance of its all-time record close
"As there's a little more anxiety about what's happening in
Cyprus and Europe overall, you're seeing traders looking to pare
back risk exposure," said Michael James, managing director of
equity trading at Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles.
"I think the realization is, there isn't going to be a quick
remedy to the situation, nor is it easy to forecast what's going
to happen. Uncertainty breeds selling, especially in a market
that's gone as far as we have in the previous two weeks."
Investors fear a collapse of the banking system in Cyprus
will tighten credit across Europe and become yet another hurdle
on the region's bumpy road out of economic crisis. Adding to
those fears, data showed the region's economy contracted more
than expected in March.
The Dow Jones industrial average slid 90.24 points,
or 0.62 percent, to end at 14,421.49. The Standard & Poor's 500
Index dropped 12.91 points, or 0.83 percent, to finish at
1,545.80. The Nasdaq Composite Index lost 31.59 points,
or 0.97 percent, to close at 3,222.60.
At its session low of 14,383.02, the Dow was down more than
100 points. The Nasdaq fell slightly more than 1 percent during
The CBOE Volatility Index or VIX, Wall Street's
favorite barometer of fear, shot up 10.4 percent to 13.99.
Cisco was the Dow's biggest percentage loser, down
3.8 percent at $20.84, after brokerage FBR downgraded its rating
on the network equipment maker's stock and cut its price target.
Among other tech shares, International Business Machines
lost 1.3 percent to $212.26.
The S&P basic materials sector index fell 1.6
percent, making it the heaviest weight on the S&P 500. Copper
prices also slid.
The benchmark S&P 500 index is on track to post only its
second weekly percentage drop so far this year, a testament to
its impressive 2013 run.
Among the day's other falling shares, apparel retailers
Guess, Tilly's and Pacific Sunwear of
California slid after they forecast first-quarter
results significantly below analysts' estimates.
Guess fell 7.2 percent to $25.01, Tilly's shed 8.4 percent
to $12.60, and Pacific Sunwear lost 9.8 percent to $2.20.
The euro-zone concerns overshadowed a batch of reports
suggesting the U.S. economic recovery was on the right track and
solid first-quarter growth in China.
A downward trend in jobless claims, an increase in factory
activity and a rise in sales of existing homes pointed to
growing momentum in the U.S. economy during the first quarter of
Initial claims for U.S. unemployment benefits inched higher
in the latest week, but the four-week average of new claims - a
measure of labor market trends - fell to its lowest level in
Volume was roughly 5.9 billion shares traded on the New York
Stock Exchange, the Nasdaq and the NYSE MKT, compared with the
2012 average daily closing volume of about 6.45 billion.
Decliners outpaced advancers on both the NYSE and the Nasdaq
by a ratio of nearly 2 to 1.