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Weak earnings pull stocks mostly lower

NEW YORK - A batch of negative company news gave investors something to fret over Thursday.

A day after eking out its first record high of 2014, the stock market lost ground Thursday as electronics retailer Best Buy, Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, and railroad operator CSX had disappointing earnings news.

Consumer discretionary companies and banks fell the most.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index slipped 2.49 points, or 0.1 percent, to 1,845.89, retreating from the all-time high it hit the day before.

Best Buy fell the most in the S&P 500 index after the company reported a decline in sales during the crucial holiday season. Its shares plunged $10.74, or 29 percent, to $26.83.

Investors had high hopes that Best Buy, which has faced intense competition from companies like Amazon.com, would put itself back on track. The stock soared 236 percent last year. However, the company said Thursday that the aggressive price-matching policy it offered during the holidays backfired and sales fell 0.8 percent compared to a year ago.

Best Buy is not the only retailer to disappoint investors in the last week.

Bed Bath & Beyond, Family Dollar and Target all cut their full-year outlooks last week after a weak holiday season. The only bright spot in the retail industry was Macy's, and even it announced layoffs of 2,500 employees as part of a restructuring.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 64.93 points, or 0.4 percent, to 16,417.01. The Nasdaq composite had a modest gain of 3.80 points, or 0.1 percent, to 4,218.69.

Goldman Sachs was the biggest drag on the Dow, falling $3.58, or 2 percent, to $175.17.

The bank reported a drop in fourth-quarter profit due to problems in its mortgages and bond trading division. However, Goldman's earnings did beat analysts' expectations.

The bond and mortgage businesses were also weak at Citigroup, whose results fell short of expectations. The stock dropped $2.39, or 4 percent, to $52.60.

The stock market is "fragile" right now, said Scott Clemons, chief investment strategist at Brown Brothers Harriman.

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