US stocks fall after housing data, Adobe weighs

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NEW YORK, Mar 23 (Reuters) U.S. stocks fell on Thursday after reports showing surprising strength in the housing sector and job market renewed worries about rising interest rates.

At the same time, tech stocks felt pressure for a second day from disappointing corporate news after software maker Adobe Systems Inc.

said current profit and revenue could fall short of analysts' estimates.

The Dow Jones industrial average was down 47.14 points, or 0.42 percent, at 11,270.29. The Standard&Poor's 500 Index was down 6.17 points, or 0.47 percent, at 1,298.87. The Nasdaq Composite Index was down 14.22 points, or 0.62 percent, at 2,289.13.

Adobe's warning late on Wednesday was more bad news for the tech sector after Microsoft Corp. this week delayed the consumer launch of its Vista operating system. Brokerage RBC Capital Markets cut its rating on Adobe, whose shares fell 2.6 percent to .65.

But data suggesting the U.S. economy was stronger than previously thought weighed on stocks before the Federal Reserve's rate-setting meeting on Monday and Tuesday, analysts said.

''The news so far today would support those who think the Fed is not close to ending its rate hike cycle,'' said Al Goldman, chief market strategist at A.G. Edwards.

The National Association of Realtors said February home resales unexpectedly rose 5.2 percent to a 6.91 million unit annual rate compared with expectations for a decline to 6.50 million units.

A government report showed new claims for U.S. unemployment benefits fell by a larger-than-expected 11,000 last week, suggesting a healthy labor market.

Shares of KB Home, the No. 5 U.S. home builder, rose 2 percent after it said quarterly profit soared and signs of a strong housing market helped home building stocks, in general.

Shares of energy company ConocoPhillips rose 1.3 percent and Internet company Yahoo Inc. added 3 percent after banks upgraded their investment ratings on the stocks.

Reuters SY BD2316

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