Wall Street dips after rally; biotechs drag Nasdaq

Reuters
A man walks past the Nasdaq MarketSite in New York's Times Square, August 23, 2013. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly/Files
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A man walks past the Nasdaq MarketSite in New York's Times Square, August 23, 2013. REUTERS/Andrew …

By Chuck Mikolajczak

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. stocks dipped on Thursday, with the Nasdaq underperforming other major indexes, as investors once again rotated into defensive names and sold momentum-driven stocks.

Biotech and large technology stocks, some of the biggest gainers in 2013, slumped on Thursday. Both the Nasdaq biotechnology index <.NBI> and the NYSEArca biotech index <.BTK> lost more than 2 percent. The S&P technology sector shed 0.5 percent as one of the worst-performing S&P sectors.

Google Inc , which was down 2.5 percent at $553, and Biogen Idec Inc , down 3.7 percent at $289.50, were among the biggest drags on the S&P 500.

In contrast, of the 10 major S&P sector indexes, most defensive sectors advanced, led by telecoms, utilities and consumer staples.

The S&P 500 saw its biggest gain since March 4 a day earlier after minutes from the Federal Reserve's latest policy meeting showed a more supportive central bank than investors had previously expected.

"The last couple of days, the markets have been focused on what the Fed is going to do and when a rate hike is likely. Yesterday we got the news once again that it is not likely, so our favorites went up," said Kim Forrest, senior equity research analyst, Fort Pitt Capital Group in Pittsburgh.

"Today, we are getting confirmation the economy is OK, it's not great, and today investors don't want to be exposed to that, to these volatility names."

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 27.62 points, or 0.17 percent, to 16,409.56, the S&P 500 lost 6.88 points, or 0.37 percent, to 1,865.3 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 47.343 points, or 1.13 percent, to 4,136.557.

Bed, Bath & Beyond shares slumped 5.9 percent to $63.88 as the worst performer on both the S&P 500 and Nasdaq 100 <.NDX> indexes after the domestic merchandise retailer reported fourth-quarter earnings.

The lackluster earnings overshadowed optimistic data on the labor front. Initial jobless claims dropped sharply last week to the lowest in almost seven years, which suggests job growth may be picking up after a harsh winter.

Shares of bailed out auto-lender Ally Financial Inc fell in its market debut valuing the company at about $11.7 billion in the biggest U.S. initial public offering so far this year. Its shares were down 1.6 percent to $24.59.

Investors will also eye the debut of two biotech companies - Cerulean Pharma Inc and Adamas Pharmaceuticals Inc - for further signs of weakness in the sector.

Financials JPMorgan Chase & Co and Wells Fargo & Co will close out the week with results on Friday.

U.S. import prices increased in March, but there was little sign of a broader pickup in imported inflation.

EBay Inc and Carl Icahn ended their proxy fight, as the activist investor dropped his proposal that the e-commerce company split off its PayPal payments unit and withdrew his two nominees for the eBay board. EBay shares dipped 1.8 percent to $54.89.

Imperva Inc plunged 41.6 percent to $29.06 after the data center security company reported preliminary fist-quarter results. Rival FireEye Inc lost 8.1 percent to $51.91.

(Editing by Nick Zieminski and Bernadette Baum)

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