Apple's sales slowdown tugs Nasdaq index lower
Microsoft fell in after-hours trading after reporting that its earnings slipped 4 percent in the last quarter of 2012. Starbucks, which also reported results after the closing bell, was little changed as its revenue came in slightly below forecasts.
Netflix jumped $43.60 to $146.86, a 42 percent bounce. Analysts had expected rising costs to lead the movie and TV show distributor to post a loss in the last three months of 2012. But Netflix said late Wednesday that it turned a profit with the help of 2 million new subscribers.
The Labor Department reported that the number of Americans applying for unemployment aid fell last week to the lowest since January 2008. Applications dropped 5,000 to 330,000. The four-week average also hit a five-year low.
The employment report nudged prices for U.S. government bonds down, sending their yields higher. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note inched up to 1.85 percent from 1.83 percent late Wednesday.
Airline stocks were mostly higher. Despite rising fuel costs, Southwest reported better earnings than analysts had expected, thanks partially to the airline charging $8 more for the average fare. The parent company of United Airlines and Continental took a heavy quarterly loss but announced plans to cut around 600 jobs.
Southwest Airlines rose 9 cents to $11.45. United Continental Holdings gained 54 cents to $25.54.
Among other companies reporting earnings:
— Xerox rose 17 cents to $7.75. Xerox's net income shrunk over the same period the previous year but it still beat analysts' estimates by a penny, helped by better revenue from its business services.
— Union Pacific dropped $1.51 to $133.84. The country's largest railroad company posted weaker revenue than analysts had predicted, a result of falling coal and crop shipments.
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