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US STOCKS-Wall St slips on Oracle's miss, European growth worry

Source : REUTERS
Last Updated: Thu, Mar 21, 2013 16:40 hrs

* Oracle shares slide after weak results

* U.S. home resales rise, jobless claims up but on trend

* Dow off 0.3 pct; S&P 500 off 0.4 pct, Nasdaq off 0.7 pct

By Rodrigo Campos

NEW YORK, March 21 (Reuters) - Technology and commodity-related stocks led Wall Street lower on Thursday after Oracle's sharp miss on quarterly results and oil and metal prices fell on concern about growth in the euro zone.

The worries 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 currency zone.

This ultimatum intensified the risk level and increased investors' uncertainty, according to Chad Morganlander, portfolio manager at Stifel, Nicolaus & Co in Florham Park, New Jersey.

"The uncertainty within Cyprus has investors cycling into the risk-off trade," Morganlander said.

Gold and U.S. Treasury debt prices rose, and the euro dropped close to a four-month low against the U.S. dollar.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 43.73 points or 0.30 percent, to 14,468. The S&P 500 lost 5.66 points or 0.36 percent, to 1,553.05. The Nasdaq Composite dropped 21.54 points or 0.66 percent, to 3,232.65.

The technology sector led the S&P 500's decline. The benchmark index is on track to post its largest percentage weekly drop so far this year.

Oracle Corp shares lost 8.3 percent to $32.80 after a number of brokerages cut their price targets on the stock following a massive miss on its third-quarter results.

Another cause for concern: Data showed the euro zone's economy contracted more than expected in March, which overshadowed a batch of data 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 the year.

But the weak data from Europe drove down oil and copper prices. The S&P basic materials sector index fell 0.9 percent, making it the biggest drag behind technology.

Shares of apparel retailers Guess, Tilly's and Pacific Sunwear of California slumped after they forecast first-quarter results significantly below analysts' estimates.

Guess fell 5.4 percent to $25.49, Tilly's shed 6.6 percent to $12.85, and Pacific Sunwear lost 9.8 percent to $2.20.




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