US stocks : Dow off 0.3 pct

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The Dow Jones industrial average fell 46.92 points to 13,880.62 at the close. (Reuters) The Dow Jones industrial average fell 46.92 points to 13,880.62 at the close. (Reuters)
SummaryThe Dow Jones industrial average fell 46.92 points to 13,880.62 at the close.

lifted the Dow and the S&P 500 close to all-time highs.

Wall Street will soon face another test with the upcoming debate in Washington over the automatic across-the-board spending cuts put in place as part of a larger congressional budget fight. Those cuts, set to kick in on March 1 unless lawmakers agree on an alternative, could depress the economy.

Semiconductor stocks ranked among the weakest of the day, pressuring the Nasdaq as the Philadelphia Semiconductor Index fell 1.8 percent. Intel Corp fell 2.3 percent to $20.25 while Advanced Micro Devices lost 3.7 percent to $2.60 as the S&P 500's biggest percentage decliner.

The Dow also got a helping hand from personal computer maker Hewlett-Packard Co, which rose 2.3 percent to end the regular session at $17.10. The company was scheduled due to report first-quarter results after the closing bell.

Shares of Boeing Co rose 1.6 percent to $76.01 as a senior executive was set to meet with the head of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration on Friday and present a series of measures to prevent battery failures that grounded its 787 Dreamliner fleet, according to a source familiar with the plans.

In other company news, shares of supermarket operator Safeway Inc jumped 14.1 percent to $22.97 after the company reported earnings that beat expectations.

Shares of VeriFone Systems Inc tumbled nearly 43 percent to $18.24 after the credit-card swipe machine maker forecast first- and second-quarter profits well below expectations.

Of the 427 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported results so far, 69.3 percent have exceeded analysts' expectations, compared with a 62 percent average since 1994 and 65 percent over the past four quarters, according to Thomson Reuters data through Thursday morning.

Fourth-quarter earnings for S&P 500 companies are estimated to have risen 5.9 percent, according to the data, above a 1.9 percent forecast at the start of the earnings season.

Berry Petroleum Co jumped 19.3 percent to $46.02 after oil and gas producer Linn Energy LLC said it would buy the company in an all-stock deal valued at $4.3 billion, including debt. Linn Energy shares advanced 2.8 percent to $37.68.

About two stocks fell for everyone

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