Stocks Fall on GDP, Oracle Reports

NEW YORK - Stocks lost ground Thursday after a reading on the economy confirmed a slowdown in the final quarter last year and a weak quarterly showing from Oracle Corp. weighed on technology stocks.

The Commerce Department's gross domestic product reading showed the economy grew at a 0.6 percent annual pace in the final quarter last year — unchanged from an estimate a month ago. And while consumers increased their buying at a 2.3 percent pace, which was ahead of the 1.9 percent growth rate that had been estimated, investors seemed unwilling to make bets that the economy will soon recover.

A Labor Department report showing a drop in the number of workers seeking unemployment benefits fell last week gave investors some room for optimism but wasn't enough to stave off a decline in stocks. Applications fell by a seasonally adjusted 9,000 to 366,000. Though the weekly figures can be volatile, the reading was better than the 371,000 many economists predicted.

Oracle, the maker of business software, posted fiscal third-quarter sales that fell short of Wall Street's expectations and issued a cautious forecast.

The reports arrived as Wall Street is still trying to determine how well the economy is holding up under strains including tightness in the credit markets, a weak housing sector and nervous consumers who have cut back spending. Investors will likely be examining comments from Federal Reserve officials for insights into how the economy, and specifically the financial sector, are faring. Several Fed officials are slated to speak Thursday.

In midmorning trading, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 60.08, or 0.48 percent, to 12,362.78.

Broader stock indicators also fell. The Standard & Poor's 500 index slid 8.76, or 0.65 percent, to 1,332.37, and the technology-heavy Nasdaq composite index fell 31.79, or 1.37 percent, to 2,292.57, hurt by Oracle's decline.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers by about 4 to 3 on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume came to 269.7 million shares.

Oracle fell $1.55, or 7.4 percent, to $19.39.

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