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Summary Box: Stocks fall on mixed economic data

Associated Press Published: May 3, 2012

MUDDLED PICTURE: A raft of conflicting economic reports early Thursday offered traders little clear direction. Big retailers such as Target, Costco and Macy's posted disappointing sales for April. Worker productivity fell sharply.

JOBS AHEAD? Traders have focused on the labor market this week because the government's monthly jobs report is due out Friday. The final major indicator before that announcement was positive: The number of people applying for unemployment benefits fell last week by the most in three months.

EUROPE LOOMS: European markets closed lower after the European Central Bank chief signaled that the ECB is not prepared to inject more cash into the region's fragile banking system.