Apr 18 - Summary of business headlines: Higher earnings at Google and Microsoft could restore confidence in battered tech stocks; Apple slides further as Verizon sales signal trouble for iPhone; Stocks fall as economy trumps profits. Conway G. Gittens reports.
Wall Street takes a fall for the fourth time in five sessions, and technology once again is the leader of the pack. The Nasdaq shed another 1.2 percent - falling to its lowest close since early March. It was a very busy day for earnings. After the close: Google - first-quarter paid clicks jumping double-digits from a year ago and 3 percent from the prior quarter. Costs per click decreased on both fronts - pointing to solid growth in its core Internet business. And despite all the talk of a slumping personal computer market, Microsoft saw sales for its key Windows division up 23 percent from a year ago; that along with tight cost controls helped offset total revenues which came in just under forecasts. International Business Machines - also out with results. The tech services giant out with higher first quarter earnings - but they fell short of estimates. The blame: falling value of the yen. Earlier in the day, investors received another clue into what may be happening at Apple. Verizon says it activated 2 million fewer iPhones in the first quarter compared to the fourth quarter, and of those activations half were the cheaper, older models. Apple continues its slump - posting its lowest close since December 2011. That didn't poor cold water on Verizon, though. Subscriber numbers are up and costs are down which means profits topped forecasts. Pepsi was able to push through price hikes and that boosted results ahead of Wall Street forecasts. And Morgan Stanley swung to a quarterly profit thanks to growth in its wealth management business. It was economic fear, though, which dominated market psychology. A gauge of future business activity fell for the first time in seven months. Meantime, a separate reading on business activity in the Mid-Atlantic states showed growth cooling in that part of the country. One bright spot: jobless claims rose slightly - which suggest the labor market is not getting worse. European stocks extended their slide led by a sell-off in the banking sector.