landsberg bennettStocks declined Thursday. The Dow fell 103 points to 25,850 while the S&P 500 was off 9 points to 2,774. The Nasdaq Composite lost 29 points to 7,459.

The major averages finished lower as investors assessed a mixed bag of economic data. A flash reading of U.S. PMI showed manufacturing activity expanded at the slowest rate in seventeen months in February while service sector activity increased to an eight-month high in the same period. A separate report revealed durable goods orders increased 1.2% in December, while the Philadelphia business index fell to the lowest point since May 2016. The January leading index ticked down 0.1%, matching the 0.1% decline in December. Another update showed existing home sales slipped to a three-year low in January. Trade negotiations also garnered an outsized focus today as delegates from the U.S. and China began writing a memorandum of understanding for a new pact. 

Seven of 11 S&P 500 sectors finished in negative territory with the Energy and Healthcare groups as loss leaders. Consumer Staples outperformed as Coca-Cola added 1.7% to $45.86 after the company increased its dividend and authorized an additional share buyback plan.

Breadth was negative on issues by roughly 3:2 on both the NYSE and the Nasdaq. Composite NYSE Volume totaled more than 3.5 billion shares.

Treasuries were weaker with the yield on the 10-year note up four basis points to 2.68%. In commodities, WTI crude fell 0.5% to $56.87/barrel. COMEX gold was down 1.6% to $1322.00/ounce amid a stronger dollar.