U.S. stocks open slightly higher thanks to a modest fall in weekly jobless claims. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 38 points to 8,861. The S&P 500 index gained 3 points to 907, while the Nasdaq Composite rose 3 points to 1,582. The financials are modestly higher even though Citigroup and Bank of America were downgraded. Paychex is up a few pennies even though they guided to the low end of the range. Discovery Financial is up 14% after a surprise profit forecast. The real winners so far are the insurance stocks. Prudential is up 15%, Metlife is up 10%, and Hartford is up 6%. The commodities are succombing to profit-taking following a nice run up. On the earnings front, FedEx meets lowered guidance. The company is cutting a billion dollars in costs. Ryder is guiding estimates to the low end of the range. Carnival is lower after reaffirming guidance. Pier One and Lennar reported quarterly losses. Rite Aid missed by 13 cents and cut guidance. Scholastic is down 12% after missing estimates by 40 cents. In the tech sector, Apple and Intel were downgraded. This is the third or fourth downgrade for Apple this week, however, the stock is higher. After the first hour the averages were exactly unchanged. Through the morning the averages inched into the green. Freddie Mac issued a report that mortgage rates have dropped again to an average of 5.19%. That's good. In the afternoon the averages fell back into the red, accelerating to the downside after S&P put GE and GE Capital on negative credit watch. GE dropped 6% and the Dow dropped 180 points. Thanks for that. Entering the last hour the Dow was down 160 points near the lows. The Nasdaq declined 20 points. In the last hour the averages pushed lower. The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished down 219 points, or 2.5%, at 8,604. The S&P 500 declined 19 points, or 2.1%, to finish at 885, while the technology-laden Nasdaq Composite shed 26 points, or 1.7%, to close at 1,552.
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