US stocks : Dow off 0.3 pct
But a late-day rally helped stocks erase some of their losses with most of the pullback concentrated in the technology- heavy Nasdaq. The move suggested investors were still willing to buy on dips even after the sharp losses in the last session.
In Europe, business activity indexes dealt a blow to hopes that the euro zone might emerge from recession soon, showing the downturn across the region's businesses unexpectedly grew worse this month.
"The PMI numbers out of Europe were really a blow to the market," said Jack De Gan, chief investment officer at Harbor Advisory in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. "The market was expecting signs that recovery is still there, but the numbers just highlighted that the euro-zone problem is still persistent."
U.S. initial claims for unemployment benefits rose more than expected last week while the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia said its index of business conditions in the U.S. mid-Atlantic region fell in February to the lowest in eight months.
Gains in Wal-Mart Stores Inc shares helped cushion the Dow. The shares gained 1.5 percent to $70.26 after the world's largest retailer reported earnings that beat expectations, though early February sales were sluggish.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 46.92 points, or 0.34 percent, to 13,880.62 at the close. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index lost 9.53 points,
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