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Written by: Staff

NEW YORK, Aug 23 (Reuters) U.S. stocks inched lower on Wednesday as weaker-than-expected home sales data raised concerns about the strength of consumer spending and the economy.

Sales of existing home fell in July to their lowest rate in 2 1/2 years, the National Association of Realtors said, and the decline was more than economists had forecast.

The news dragged down housing-related stocks, including home improvement retailer Lowe's Cos. Inc., which fell 2 percent to $27.36. The Dow Jones home construction index .D was down more than 3 percent, its biggest one-day percentage drop in two weeks.

''It's kind of a continuation of what we have seen over the past couple of months,'' said Bernie Myszkowski, executive vice president and director of equity investments, ABN AMRO Asset Management in Chicago. ''As you look at the broader market, it has to have some impact on the economy.'' A decline in the housing sector has wide implications for the economy, affecting purchases of appliances and other household goods as well as contributing to consumers' sense of wealth.

Shares of International Business Machines Corp., the world's largest information-technology company, fell 1 cent to $78.94 after it agreed to buy Internet Security Systems Inc. for $1.3 billion.

For details, see ID:nN23318836.

The Dow Jones industrial average was down 5.76 points, or 0.05 percent, at 11,334.08. The Standard&Poor's 500 Index was down 1.71 points, or 0.13 percent, at 1,297.11. The Nasdaq Composite Index was down 1.46 points, or 0.07 percent, at 2,148.56.


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