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Stocks sink as earnings reports scare investors

Oct. 24, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

NEW YORK -- Nobody was expecting this round of corporate earnings reports to be great. But companies' underwhelming results are still rattling investors.

The Dow Jones industrial average plunged Tuesday to its lowest level in nearly seven weeks. Big-name companies reported weak quarterly revenue and lowered their forecasts for the rest of the year.

The Dow sank as much as 262 points, or roughly 2 percent, before ending the day down 243.36 points to 13,102.53. The decline was the Dow's third-steepest this year.

Other indexes also fell sharply. The Standard & Poor's 500 index shed 20.71 points to 1,413.11, and the Nasdaq composite index lost 26.50 points to 2,990.46. The Nasdaq hadn't closed below 3,000 since Aug. 6.

On the New York Stock Exchange, for every stock that rose, roughly three fell.

Companies of all stripes signaled that the economy is far from healed, and that demand is weaker than a year ago. Revenue fell compared with a year ago at DuPont, 3M, UPS and Xerox.

Because of their global footprints and variety of products and services, those companies augur how the world economy is performing.

Chemical maker DuPont said it will have to cut jobs and other expenses to make up for weak demand. 3M, which makes all manner of products including Scotch tape and coatings for LCD screens, cut its profit prediction for the year.

UPS, the world's largest package-delivery company, warned that the pace of global growth remains uneven. And Xerox said the "challenging economy" is causing "cost pressures for large enterprises and governments."

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