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Stocks fall as retailers, economic data disappoint

Updated at 11:22 a.m. ET

NEW YORK - U.S. stocks fell in early trading Thursday, as disappointing economic data and a couple bad earnings reports from the retail industry forced investors to seek safety.

The Dow Jones industrial average lost 175 points to 16,439 as of 11:21 a.m. ET. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 23 points to 1,865 and the Nasdaq composite slid 53 points to 4,048.

Shares in the retail giant Wal-Mart Stores fell $2.05, or 2.5 percent, to $76.70. The company reported a 5 percent profit decline in its most recent quarter and warned that things don't look much better this quarter. The company, like many other retailers, blamed harsh winter weather. Kohl's also fell sharply after reporting a 15 percent drop in first-quarter earnings. Its comparable-store sales fell 3.4 percent. Analysts were looking for a slight uptick.

U.S. industrial production dropped in April, the Federal Reserve said Thursday, possibly due to more bad weather. Production fell by 0.6 percent versus the 0.1 percent gain that economists expected. Factory output, which excludes mines and utilities, fell by 0.4 percent.

U.S. consumer prices rose at their fastest pace in nearly a year in April, the Labor Department said Thursday. The consumer price index, an often-quoted barometer of inflation in the U.S., rose by 0.3 percent last month due to higher food and gas prices. Inflation is on pace to rise 2 percent this year. While not alarming, it is noticeably higher than it was a year ago.

One positive economic report was jobless claims. The Labor Department says the number of people who filed for unemployment benefits fell to its lowest level in seven years last week. Weekly unemployment benefit applications fell by 24,000 to 297,000. Economists had predicted a much smaller drop in jobless claims applications.

With stocks selling off, investors bought bonds. The yield on the U.S. 10-year note fell below 2.5 percent for the first time this year.

Telecommunications equipment maker Cisco jumped $1.67, or 7 percent, to $24.44. Cisco reported an adjusted profit of 51 cents a share, three cents better than expectations.

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