Disappointing data stifles Wall St

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The Dow Jones industrial average fell 3.33 points to close at 11,977.19

Stock indexes finished about where they started on Tuesday after a round of disappointing corporate earnings and another drop in home prices.

Trading was muted ahead of President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech, in which he was expected to outline a plan to reduce the deficit.

Four of the 30 companies in the Dow Jones industrial average reported results before the market opened – DuPont, 3M, Verizon Communications and Johnson&Johnson.

3M lost 2% after the manufacturing company’s income fell because of higher costs. Johnson&Johnson lost 1.8% after reporting a 12% drop in income. The maker of Tylenol and other drugs was hammered by costly recalls of its products.

DuPont’s income fell but still beat expectations. Its stock rose 0.3%. Verizon’s stock gained 1.6% after the phone company’s profits surged.

Another Dow member, American Express, fell 2.2% after reporting earnings late on Monday that came in below analysts’ expectations.

The Dow lost 3.33 points, or less than 0.1%, to 11,977.19. It had been down as far as 11,898.74 in earlier trading. The Standard&Poor’s 500 index inched up 0.34, or less than 0.1%, to 1,291.18. The Nasdaq composite index gained 1.7 points, or 0.1%, to 2,719.25.

Treasury prices rose ahead of the President’s State of the Union speech as traders hoped for news on spending curbs. That would ease worries in the bond market that the US might soon run up against its borrowing limit.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 3.33% from 3.39% late on Monday. Bond yields move in the opposite direction of their prices.

Three stocks rose for every two that fell on the New York Stock Exchange. Volume came to one billion shares.

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