Economic data drives stocks down - or does it?

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The Dow Jones industrial average fell 25 points, or 0.27 percent, to 9,256 today. But why? Perhaps it's because investors are nervous about tomorrow's unemployment report. Or maybe it's because they were underwhelmed by today's July retail sales figures. Or maybe, as Reuters financial blogger Felix Salmon wrote this afternoon, the move could have occurred for "no reason."

"There's an invidious fiction underlying most market reports," Salmon writes. Specifically, it's that the markets' every gyration has a cause, and that a dispassionate observer can divine that cause by looking at the numbers and asking the right questions. Sometimes, pointing out there might not be a reason is "a more realistic approach," Salmon says.

What drove today's decline? Probably economic data played a party, but other barely seen factors likely deserve some of the credit as well. For a rundown of noteworthy stocks, be sure to check out BloggingStocks' market wrap-up.
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