By Rodrigo Campos
NEW YORK -- U.S. stocks fell for a fourth straight session Thursday but indexes ended well off session lows with support from economic data and earnings, including Accenture's.
Semiconductor stocks were again under pressure, this time after SanDisk (SNDK) cut its revenue outlook. Its shares tumbled 18.4 percent to $66.20 and an index of chipmaker shares fell 1.4 percent. The index fell as much as 3.5 percent earlier.
The S&P 500 is still less than 3 percent below its record high hit three weeks ago. The index rallied last week as concern ebbed about an overheating dollar.
%VIRTUAL-pullquote-Earnings, particularly from U.S.-based companies, continue to be very strong.%Consulting company Accenture's (ACN) quarterly net revenue rose 5 percent, helped by growth in its outsourcing business as North American companies look to cut costs. Its shares rose 6.8 percent to $94.17.
Red Hat (RHT) rallied 10.1 percent to $75.36 after it forecast a profit for the first quarter that matched analyst estimates despite warning about a strong dollar hurting its revenue.
"Earnings, particularly from U.S.-based companies, continue to be very strong," said Doug Foreman, chief investment officer at Kayne Anderson Rudnick in Los Angeles.
The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) fell 40.31 points, or 0.23 percent, to 17,678.23, the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GSPC) lost 4.9 points, or 0.24 percent, to 2,056.15 and the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) dropped 13.16 points, or 0.27 percent, to 4,863.36.
Energy stocks on the S&P 500 ended down 0.2 percent despite a rally in crude prices following Saudi Arabia's air strikes in Yemen.
The number of Americans filing new claims for jobless benefits fell more than expected last week while activity in the services sector hit a six-month high in March, underscoring the economy's solid fundamentals despite a recent softening in growth.
Winnebago Industries (WGO) fell after reporting a lower-than-expected quarterly profit as expenses rose. Shares tumbled 14.3 percent to $20.39.
Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by 1,834 to 1,187, for a 1.55-to-1 ratio; on the Nasdaq, 1,492 issues fell and 1,198 advanced, for a 1.25-to-1 ratio. The benchmark S&P 500 posted 3 new 52-week highs and 5 new lows; the Nasdaq composite recorded 18 new highs and 45 new lows. About 7 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, above the 6.8 billion daily average so far this month, according to BATS Global Markets.
What to watch Friday:
By Rodrigo Campos