Trader Americo Brunetti works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Thursday, March 7, 2019. U.S. stocks moved lower in morning trading, led by banks and technology companies, putting the market on track for its first losing week since January. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

US stocks fall in afternoon trading, extending weekly losses

March 07, 2019 - 3:29 pm

Losses in technology and financial companies pulled U.S. stocks broadly lower Thursday afternoon, placing the market on track for its first losing week since January.

Utilities and real estate stocks eked out slight gains as investors sought out safer holdings.

A lack of concrete news on trade and lingering economic concerns have been weighing on stocks all week.

Investor optimism about progress in trade talks between the U.S. and China appears to be waning. Media reports have signaled that a deal could be struck this month, but there is less confidence in any of the major issues being resolved.

U.S. stocks followed a sell-off in European indexes after the European Central Bank became the latest central bank to acknowledge weaker economic growth and take steps to lessen the damage. In an unexpectedly swift move Thursday, the ECB pushed back the earliest date of interest rate increases and announced a new round of cheap loans to banks.

The move by the ECB comes amid worries that China's slowing economy could weigh on the global economy.

China's government has also taken up a series of stimulus measures. In the U.S., the Federal Reserve has pulled back from raising interest rates, acknowledging potential threats to economic growth.

Meanwhile, investors were looking ahead to key economic data due out Friday on jobs and new home construction.

THE QUOTE: "The tone for the day was pretty much set by the ECB," said Erik Davidson, chief investment officer at Wells Fargo Private Bank. "Normally the market would respond well to this very accommodative monetary policy, but the comments around it and concerns for the eurozone economy are probably what's put the market back on its heels."

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 229 points, or 0.9 percent, to 25,443 as of 3:25 p.m. Eastern Time. The S&P 500 declined 0.9 percent, while the Nasdaq composite dropped 1.2 percent. European indexes finished lower.

CLEANUP IN AISLE THREE: Kroger plunged 8.8 percent after the grocery store operator reported weak earnings and a drop in fourth-quarter revenue that fell short of Wall Street forecasts. The stock was the biggest decliner in the S&P 500.

DELETE THIS: Digital storage companies Seagate Technology and Western Digital slumped as part of a broad slide in technology stocks. Seagate dropped 2.6 percent, while Western Digital gave up 2.3 percent.

THIN READ: Bookseller Barnes & Noble shed 16 percent after it slashed its earnings forecast for its full fiscal year.

TAXING QUARTER: H&R Block rose 3 percent after the tax software and preparation company told investors it remains on track to hit its financial forecast for the fiscal year.

The company reported a delay in tax returns filed during its fiscal third quarter that hurt revenue. The company's fourth fiscal quarter, the height of tax season, is typically its strongest.

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