Weak Bank Results Weigh On Stock Market

NEW YORK (AP) -

Disappointing results from Bank of America and Citigroup tugged the stock market to its fifth straight loss Thursday.

Oil prices continued their slide, and U.S. government bonds jumped.

Weak revenue from trading pulled down Bank of America’s profit 11 percent in the fourth quarter. The bank’s earnings and revenue fell short of Wall Street’s estimates. BofA’s stock sank 84 cents, or 5 percent, to $15.20.

Discouraging news on the global economy and falling oil prices have rattled investors recently, even as the bull market for stocks closes in on its sixth anniversary.

Despite slowing growth overseas, the U.S. economy continues to improve. Last week, the government said that the unemployment rate declined to 5.6 percent in December, a six-year low. On Thursday, the New York branch of the Federal Reserve reported manufacturing expanded in the region.

On Thursday, the Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 18.60, or 0.9 percent, to close at 1,992.67. The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 106.38 points, or 0.6 percent, to 17,320.71, while the Nasdaq composite fell 68.50, or 1.5 percent, to 4,570.82.

A volatile day of oil trading ended with crude falling $2.23 to end at $46.25 a barrel. Earlier in the day it jumped over $51. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, fell $1.02 to close at $47.67 in London.

With JPMorgan Chase posting a drop in profits on Wednesday, the fourth-quarter earnings season has had a rough start. But that shouldn’t come as a surprise. Analysts have spent the past few weeks trimming their forecasts.

Citigroup sank $1.82, or 4 percent, to $47.23 following news that the bank’s quarterly profit fell 86 percent. The bank booked legal and restructuring charges at the end of last year to cover costs tied to a number of investigations. Analysts had expected stronger results.

In Europe, France’s CAC 40 climbed 2.4 percent, while Germany’s DAX gained 2.2 percent. Britain’s FTSE 100 rose 1.7 percent.

Switzerland’s central bank rocked currency markets on Thursday when it abandoned efforts to keep the Swiss franc artificially low against the euro. The Swiss currency soared in response. But Swiss stocks took a pounding on the prospect of the country’s exports becoming more expensive to overseas buyers.

In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei 225 jumped 1.9 percent. China’s Shanghai Composite surged 3.5 percent, and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng rose 1 percent.

Back in the U.S., Radio Shack’s stock plummeted 36 percent following a report in The Wall Street Journal that the struggling electronics retailer could file for bankruptcy protection as early as February. The company’s shares fell 15 cents to 26 cents

Target announced that it was closing all of its stores in Canada, saying it couldn’t find a realistic way for the division to turn a profit before 2021. Target’s stock rose $1.34, or 2 percent, to $75.67.

Precious and industrial metals traded higher. Gold gained $30.30 to $1,264.80 an ounce, while silver rose 11 cents to $17.10 an ounce. Copper inched up 5 cents to $2.56 a pound.

In other futures trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange:

Wholesale gasoline fell 5.2 cents to close at $1.299 a gallon.

Heating oil fell 3.2 cents to close at $1.623 a gallon.

Natural gas fell 7.5 cents to close at $3.158 per 1,000 cubic feet.