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Profit taking hits Wall St after rally

THE S&amp;P 500 and the Nasdaq fell yesterday as investors booked profits following the stock market&rsquo;s recent run-up, while a weaker-than-expected reading on a measure of consumer confidence raised doubts about spending.<br /><br />Technology and consumer discretionary shares fared worse than the broader market as investors sold recent winners. <strong>Baidu&rsquo;s</strong> disappointing outlook added to the negative tone for tech names. The semiconductor index shed 2.5 per cent.<br /><br />Even so, the Dow Jones industrial average eked out a slim gain after <strong>IBM</strong> raised its share repurchase plan to $9.2bn (&pound;5.5bn) and shares of <strong>Exxon</strong> <strong>Mobil</strong> and <strong>Chevron</strong> rose on the back of <strong>BP&rsquo;s</strong> strong earnings. <br /><br />The day&rsquo;s declines marked the third straight day of losses for the S&amp;P 500 and the Nasdaq.<br /><br />The Dow Jones industrial average gained 14.21 points, or 0.14 per cent, to 9,882.17. The Standard &amp; Poor&rsquo;s 500 Index fell 3.54 points, or 0.33 per cent, to 1,063.41. The Nasdaq Composite Index declined 25.76 points, or 1.20 per cent, to 2,116.09.<br /><br />Baidu, the Chinese web search company&rsquo;s stock, down 11.4 percent at $383.66, was the second-worst drag on the Nasdaq, behind <strong>Apple</strong>, which fell 2.5 per cent to $197.37.<br /><br />Shares of <strong>Google</strong>, the world&rsquo;s leading web search company, declined 1.1 per cent to $548.29, a day after Baidu forecast a sequential decline in fourth-quarter revenue.<br /><br />But <strong>Exxon</strong> <strong>Mobil</strong> shares shot up 2.3 per cent to $74.91, while <strong>Chevron</strong> shares climbed 1.5 per cent to $76.59 following BP&rsquo;s results. The energy sector also got a boost from a bounce in crude oil prices. US front-month crude ended up 87 cents, or 1.11 per cent, at $79.55 a barrel.<br /><br />After the bell, <strong>Visa</strong>, the world&rsquo;s largest payment network, posted a stronger-than-expected quarterly profit, raised its dividend and authorized a stock-buyback plan. Its stock rose 1.3 per cent to $74.86 in after-hours trading. Visa shares ended regular trading at $73.90.<br /><br />On the economic front, the Conference Board&rsquo;s index of consumer confidence fell to 47.7 in October, weaker than economists had forecast. The data showed consumers were increasingly concerned about job market conditions.