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Stocks edge lower after earnings, economy reports

NEW YORK (AP) -- Stocks edged lower on Thursday as investors assessed the latest round of company earnings, a survey on manufacturing and news on the U.S. job market. Satellite TV company Dish gained on reports that AT&T had approached the company about a merger.

KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell two points, or 0.1 percent, to 1,881 as of 2:51 p.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 44 points, or 0.3 percent, to 16,537. The Dow closed at an all-time high on Wednesday. The Nasdaq composite rose four points, or 0.1 percent, to 4,119.

DISH NATION: Dish climbed $3.30, or 5.8 percent, to $60.16 after The Wall Street Journal reported that AT&T had approached the satellite TV provider about a possible acquisition. A deal would likely be worth about $40 billion, the Journal reported.

AVON CALLING: Avon slumped $1.88, or 12.3 percent, to $13.40 after the beauty products company said its first-quarter loss widened, stung by volatile currency moves in Venezuela and weak revenue across all regions. Profit and revenue fell short of Wall Street expectations.

MANUFACTURING AND CONSTRUCTION: U.S. manufacturing accelerated from March to April, leading factories to step up hiring, according to a survey by the Institute for Supply Management. U.S. construction spending rose slightly in March, fueled by increases in building apartments, single-family homes, factories, health care centers and office projects, the Commerce Department said.

EARNINGS OVERVIEW: More than 60 percent of the companies in the S&P 500 have reported earnings for the first quarter. Analysts expect earnings for the period to rise by 1.7 percent, compared with growth of almost 8 percent in the fourth quarter and 5.2 percent in the same period a year ago, according to data from S&P Capital IQ.

THE QUOTE: “There's a lot of noise around the trend, but the trend is positive ... Earnings are coming in OK, and that makes me happy,” said Karyn Cavanaugh, senior market strategist at Voya Investment Management. “Investors need to get into this market.”

PLASTIC FANTASTIC: MasterCard rose 81 cents, or 1.1 percent, to $76.50 after the company reported that its net income climbed 14 percent in the first quarter as more spending by cardholders worldwide lifted the company's results. MasterCard runs the world's second-largest payment network behind Visa.

CONSUMER SPENDING: U.S. consumers ramped up their spending in March at the fastest pace in 4{ years, a sign that the economy is gaining momentum after its winter slowdown. The Commerce Department said Thursday that consumer spending rose 0.9 percent, the largest monthly gain since April 2009. The department also raised its estimate of the spending increase in February to 0.5 percent from 0.3 percent.

JOBLESS CLAIMS: The Labor Department says 344,000 people applied for unemployment benefits last week, up 14,000 from the previous week and the most since late February. Claims for unemployment benefits are a proxy for layoffs. The number of people applying for benefits has risen for three weeks in a row, but the figures are still below where they were during the recession.

TREASURYS AND COMMODITIES: Government bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.61 percent from 2.65 percent. The price of oil fell 32 cents, or 0.3 percent, to $99.42 a barrel. Gold fell $12.50, or 1 percent, to $1,283 an ounce.

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