U.S. stocks were steady at Thursday's start, with the benchmark indexes ready to close out May with losses of 6% or more. "We continue to view the equity market as problematic, but not on a cliff facing a huge free fall," noted Fred Dickson, chief investment strategist at Davidson Cos. The Dow Jones Industrial Average inched up 5 points to 12,428, off 5.9% for the month. The S&P 500 held flat at 1,313 down 6% from the end of April. The Nasdaq Composite fell 3 points to 2,833, leaving it down 7% for May. The news doesn't seem to be getting any better. The GDP and employment data came in disappointing once again. Retail sales came in mixed. Kohls is down 5% on disappointing same store sales. A number of other retailers are lower as well. Nike is lower on news they are selling some non-core brands. TJX is higher by a percent even though they missed guidance. Talbots is up 91% after finally agreeing to be bought out. The weakest sector this morning is industrials following disappointing earnings from Joy Global and lowered guidance. Joy Global's weakness is really hurting rival Caterpillar which is down 4%. The weakness in Cat is hitting the Dow. After the open the Dow dropped 50 points while the Nasdaq declined 30 points. The techs are trying to hold up. SAP and Zynga are higher on upgrades. Ciena is jumping 7% on earnings. Altera, Maxim Integrated, and Analog Devices are modestly lower even though they were upgraded. Facebook is down 3.5% to a new low. The energy and material space are getting hit once again. Cliffs Natural Resources is down 6% on a downgrade. Freeport and Hess are lower by 2%. Only the utilities are modestly higher. After the first hour the averages remained near the lows of the day. Not a good way to end May. By late morning the Dow had dropped 100 points, but soon rebounded on news European Union was looking into shoring up the Spanish banking issues. Joy Global and Caterpillar are experiencing nice rebounds. In the afternoon the averages battled back rallying into the green only to give up the gains once again. In the last hour the averages jumped 70 points only to pull back once again. The volatility is back. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 26 points to 12,393, off 6.2% for May. The S&P 500 Index fell 2 points to 1,310, leaving it down 6.3% for the month. The Nasdaq Composite fell 10 points to 2,827, down 7.2% for the month. May proved the worst in two years for the Dow and Nasdaq.
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