Stock market opens lower after weaker-than-expected US growth late last year


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U.S. financial markets were essentially flat in morning trading Friday, as investors weighed a mix of U.S. economic data and the latest corporate earnings. Health care stocks were among the biggest decliners.

KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average fell 22 points, or 0.1 percent, to 18,192 as of 11:16 a.m. Eastern. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose less than one point at 2,111. The Nasdaq composite was down two points, or 0.1 percent, at 4,985.

THE QUOTE: "The market does not have a clear catalyst to either cause it to sell off or to surge forward, and we're getting a little expensive from a valuation perspective," said David Heidel, regional investment director at U.S. Bank Wealth Management.

WEAKER GROWTH: The Commerce Department said that the U.S. economy grew at an annual rate of 2.2 percent in the October-December quarter, weaker than the 2.6 percent first estimated last month. The latest estimate marks a major slowdown from the third quarter, which had the strongest growth in 11 years. For all of 2014, the economy expanded 2.4 percent, up slightly from 2.2 percent growth in 2013.

HOUSING BELLWETHER: The National Association of Realtors' seasonally adjusted pending home sales index increased 1.7 percent to 104.2 in January. December's figure was also revised higher to show a smaller decline. The report is a sign that home sales are poised to accelerate after a slow start to the year.

CONFIDENCE SLIPS: Consumers' confidence slipped this month, though it remains at the highest level in eight years. The University of Michigan's index of consumer sentiment dipped to 95.4 from an 11-year high of 98.1 in January. Overall, consumers' assessment of the economy and their expectations for the future both fell.

SECTOR VIEW: Five of the 10 sectors in the S&P 500 moved lower, with health care stocks sliding the most. Consumer staples stocks led the gainers.

PENNEY PINCHED: Shares in J.C. Penney slumped 7.1 percent, a day after the department store chain reported a surprise loss as expenses increased. The stock lost 64 cents to $8.48.

UNDERWEIGHT: Weight Watchers slid 34.4 percent after the weight-loss program operator issued an outlook late Thursday for this year's profits that fell far below Wall Street's expectations. The company fell $6.05 to $11.51.

MONSTER GAINS: Investors sent shares in Monster Beverage sharply higher a day after the energy drink seller reported higher fourth-quarter earnings and improved sales. The stock surged $16.85, or 13.5 percent, to $141.59.

OVERSEAS MARKETS: In Europe, Germany's DAX gained 0.1 percent, while France's CAC-40 was up 0.2 percent. Britain's FTSE 100 rose 0.1 percent. In Asia, Tokyo's Nikkei 225 rose 0.1 percent after Japan reported mixed economic data. The Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.4 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng was down 0.3 percent.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude was up 99 cents at $49.16 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On Thursday, the contract fell $2.82 to close at $48.17 a barrel.

BONDS: U.S. government bond prices didn't move much. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note slipped to 2.01 percent from 2.03 percent late Thursday.

AP Business Writer Joe McDonald in Beijing contributed to this story.

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