Stocks fall -- more to come?

Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor/File

(MoneyWatch) Disappointing earnings from a range of companies pushed the stock market lower on Thursday, giving major indexes their third loss this week.

Despite early signs pointing to a winning day on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average lost 81 points to close at 14,537, a loss of more than 2 percent for the week. The Nasdaq composite shed 38 points to close at 3,166.

The S&P 500 lost 10 points, closing at 1541. The dreary finish for that broad-based index was the day's most ominous note, closing just below a key level many traders watch, the 50-day moving average of 1543.

"Most of the pullbacks we've seen so far recently -- such as from the turmoil in Cyprus or the Italian elections -- have been met by buyers," said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Lazard Capital Markets. "I'm not so sure that's going to happen now."

Hogan said investors may be spooked by a  combination of news-driven factors, such as a slowdown in China and lackluster earnings,and intangible emotional factors prompted by events such as the bombing in Boston and continuing malaise in Washington.

"We've had lower highs and lower lows, but with the break in the 50-day moving average, we're getting a signal that the market's uptrend could be coming to an end," he said.

The stock prices of Morgan Stanley (MS), UnitedHealth Group (UNH) and others sank after they turned in weaker quarterly results. Prices of commodities held steady following a wild couple of days.

Meanwhile, the Conference Board said its index of leading indicators dipped 0.1 percent last month, to 94.7, the first decline after three months of gains. The gauge is designed to anticipate economic conditions three to six months out.