Overnight Markets: Wall Street down on growth concerns

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Wall Street declined on Thursday, with the S&P 500 posting its worst two-day loss since November, amid growing concerns that the Federal Reserve may slow the pace of stimulus and after reports cast doubt over the health of the US and euro zone economies.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 47 points, or 0.34%, to 13,881 at the close. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index lost 10 points, or 0.63%, to 1,502. The Nasdaq Composite Index dropped 33 points, or 1.04%, to close at 3,131.

Shares declined after business activity indexes in Europe dealt a blow to hopes that the euro zone might emerge from recession soon.

In the US, initial claims for unemployment benefits rose more than expected last week while the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia said its index of business conditions in the US mid-Atlantic region declined in February to the lowest in eight months.

Semiconductor shares suffered the most, pressuring the Nasdaq. Intel Corp fell 2.3% while Advanced Micro Devices lost 3.7%.

However, a late-day rally helped markets recovered some of the losses. Wal-Mart Stores shares gained 1.5% after reporting earnings that beat expectations, helping cushion the Dow.

Hewlett-Packard Co gained 2.3%. The company was scheduled due to report first-quarter results after the closing bell.

Boeing Co rose 1.6% as a senior executive was set to meet with the head of the US Federal Aviation Administration on Friday and present a series of measures to prevent battery failures that grounded its 787 Dreamliner fleet.

Shares of supermarket operator Safeway Inc jumped 14.1% after the company reported earnings that beat expectations.

VeriFone Systems Inc tumbled nearly 43% after the credit-card swipe machine maker forecast first- and second-quarter profits well below expectations.

In Asia, shares erased earlier losses on Friday in the noon trade as consumer staple and health care stocks advanced.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index was little changed at 134 as of 12:54 p.m. in Tokyo.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index was little changed at 134 as of 12:54 p.m. in Tokyo. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index jumped 0.9%. South Korea’s Kospi Index gained 0.1%. Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average fell 0.5% as the yen dropped against all of its 16 major counterparts.

China’s Shanghai Composite Index was little changed, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index declined 0.3%.