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Wall St rocked by weak labour data

US stocks recovered most of their losses but ended lower yesterday after weak employment and durable goods data added to recent worries about the strength of the economic recovery.

Trading started on a sour note, but rumors of a 4-for-1 stock split planned by Apple coincided with a late-day rebound in stocks. A spokesman said the company has not made an announcement of a stock split. The Nasdaq reaped most of the benefit of Apple’s rebound and the index ended just short of break-even.

Some analysts said the broader move was a result of an oversold market earlier in the session.
“The market might be beginning to believe that there was some overreaction, and now [they] are looking at it as a buying opportunity,” said Jeff Kleintop, chief market strategist at LPL Financial in Boston.

Still, poor news on durable goods orders excluding transportation, which unexpectedly fell in January, and a jump in weekly jobless claims, fed negativity. The data came on top of disappointing reports on consumer sentiment and home prices and sales earlier this week.

Industrial and financial shares ranked among the biggest drags on the S&P 500. JP Morgan Chase & Co slipped 0.5 per cent to close at $40.64 on the New York Stock Exchange.

The Dow Jones industrial average shed 53.13 points, or 0.51 per cent, to 10,321.03. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index declined 2.30 points, or 0.21 per cent, to 1,102.94.

The Nasdaq Composite Index dipped 1.68 points, or 0.08 per cent, to close at 2,234.22.

Concerns about the debt loads of some eurozone countries were revived after rating agencies said they might downgrade Greece’s sovereign debt rating.

The news added to investor anxiety ahead of a new 10-year bond Greece will issue in the next few weeks.

Moody’s said a change in Greece’s rating would depend on whether Athens could smoothly enact a fiscal reform plan, while Standard & Poor’s said a downgrade by one or two notches in the next month was possible.

The move could increase borrowing costs and exacerbate Greece’s problems.