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  • Dow Jones Industrial Average down 33.45 (-0.26%) to 12,598.55
  • S&P 500off 5.86 (-0.44%) to 1,324.80
  • Nasdaq Composite Index down 19.72 (-0.68%) to 2,874.04

GLOBAL SENTIMENT

  • Hang Seng Index down 3.19%
  • Shanghai China Composite Index down 1.21%
  • FTSE 100 down 0.37%

The U.S. markets finished slightly lower today, giving back earlier gains and extending the current slump to a fourth day as worries over Greece's fate within the eurozone overtook more evidence the U.S. economy continues to gather strength.

Most industry sectors in the S&P 500 closed with small losses, paced by financial stocks. Energy and materials stocks also slumped as commodity prices fell again. Consumer stocks, along with healthcare issues, held onto their moderate winnings through the close.

Greece today set a June 17 election date in a bid to reverse inconclusive parliamentary results following elections earlier this month. Political leaders also selected the country's top administrative judge, Panagiotis Pikrammenos, as interim prime minister. Pikrammenos has been president of Greece's top administrative court since 2010.

The European Central Bank also contributed to the rising sour mood after saying it was unlikely to provide any more financial assistance to Greece before the elections next month.

Stocks started higher today following several positive economic reports, including the Federal Reserve reporting that industrial production grew during April at its fastest pace since December 2010, led by higher utilities output and a rebound in manufacturing. Industrial output grew 1.1% last month, nearly double the 0.6% consensus forecast by experts polled by Reuters. The Fed also revised its estimates for prior months, saying production contracted 0.6% in March and expanded 0.4% in February. It previously said production was flat both months.

Capacity utilization, a measure of how fully firms are using their resources, rose to 79.2%, also topping forecasts while reaching its best level in four years.

The Commerce Department said U.S. housing starts rose 2.6% last month to a 717,000 annualized rate, up from a revised 699,000 pace during March. Experts surveyed by Bloomberg News had expecting a 685,000 annualized pace for April.

Also, the percentage of homeowners delinquent on their mortgages during the first quarter fell to the lowest level since the final three months of 2008, with about 11.8% of all loans at least 30 days past due or in foreclosure, according to the report from the Mortgage Bankers Association. While the number is still high by historical standards, it has fallen at a steady clip over the past two years, down from 12.8% a year ago and 14.7% two years ago.

The Federal Reserve released minutes of its April 23-24 Federal Open Market Committee meeting this afternoon to little response after the minutes provided little fresh insight about member attitudes about further moves intended to boost the economy.

In company news, the results among retail companies was decidedly mixed with shares of Target Corp (NYSE:TGT) rising after the discount chain this morning reported Q1 results beating expectations and the company raised its FY12 outlook. But the news out of Abercrombie & Fitch (NYSE:ANF) and J.C. Penney's (NYSE:JCP) was far less positive, with shares of both companies sliding hard after they reported disappointing financial results.

ANF shares are off nearly 12% today despite the teen retailer topping Q1 profit estimates by a penny, earning $0.03 a share. The $3 million in Q1 net income was down 90% drop from the $25.1 million gain for ANF during the first three months of 2011. Revenues rose 10% to $921.2 million, trailing consensus opinion by over $30 million, while same-store sales for the period fell 5%, much steeper than the 0.5% decline predicted by analysts.

JCP is down nearly 15% today after the struggling department store chain suspended its $0.20 a share quarterly dividend and said it no longer expects to meet its annual GAAP earnings guidance of $1.59 a share. That followed JCP reporting a Q1 net loss of $0.25 a share on $3.15 billion in in sales. The Street was at a $0.11 per share loss and $3.41 billion in sales.

Crude oil for June delivery finished with a $1.17 decline, settling at $92.81 a barrel. June natural gas ended with nearly a 12-cent gain at $2.618 per 1 million British thermal units.

Gold officially entered a bear market today with the precious metal now down 20% from its all-time highs last September. June gold fell $21.30 today to finish at $1,536.30 an ounce, July silver slid $0.85 to $27.18 while July copper fell 5 cents to $3.47.

UPSIDE MOVERS

(+) ROSG, Medicare agrees to cover company's cancer assay test.

(+) GE, Restarts quarterly dividend; accelerates stock buyback.

(+) GM, Berkshire Hathaway buys 10 million shares during Q1.

(+) CHS, Q1 EPS, revenues beat Street estimates.

(+) OSUR, FDA OK for home HIV test.

DOWNSIDE MOVERS

(-) NCT, Begins public offering of 20 million shares.

(-) ARNA, Sets 11-million share offering.

(-) VELT, Guides FY12 revenues in-line despite Q1 beat.

(-) NBG, On-going political turmoil, new elections likely in June.

(-) AMBO, Further delays reporting FY11 results.

Source: Greek Worries Again Take Over Markets