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US markets end marginally lower on Wednesday

The US markets ended marginally lower on Wednesday as traders digested a mixed batch of earnings reports from big-name companies such as PepsiCo (PEP), Morgan Stanley (MS), Netflix (NFLX) and IBM Corp. PepsiCo and Morgan Stanley posted notable gains after reporting quarterly results that exceeded street estimates on both the top and bottom lines. On the other hand, Netflix and IBM moved to the downside after both reported better than expected earnings but on weaker than expected revenues and provided disappointing guidance. The lackluster performance continued as the Federal Reserve's Beige Book said US economic activity expanded at a slight-to-moderate pace in March and early April. A compilation of anecdotal evidence on economic conditions in the twelve Fed districts, the Beige Book said most districts reported that growth continued at a similar pace as the previous report, while a few districts reported some strengthening. The Beige Book showed reports from the Fed districts indicated generally positive economic conditions in various sectors but noted some caveats.

Meanwhile, after reporting sharp increases in US wholesale inventories in the two previous months, the Commerce Department released a report showing inventories rose by less than expected in the month of February. The Commerce Department said wholesale inventories edged up by 0.2% in February after surging up by 1.2% in January. Street had expected inventories to climb by 0.5%. Inventories of durable goods inched up by 0.1%, as notable increases in inventories of furniture and machinery were offset by steep drops in inventories of computer equipment, lumber, and metals. The report said inventories of non-durable goods rose by 0.3%, reflecting spikes in inventories of drugs and apparel as well as slumps in inventories of farm products, chemicals and petroleum. Besides, a report released by the Commerce Department showed the US trade deficit unexpectedly narrowed in the month of February amid a jump in the value of exports. The Commerce Department said the trade deficit narrowed to $49.4 billion in February from $51.1 billion in January, while Street had expected the deficit to widen to $53.5 billion. The narrower deficit came as the value of exports surged up by 1.1% to $209.7 billion in February from $207.4 billion in January.

Dow Jones Industrial Average declined 3.12 points or 0.01 percent to 26449.54, Nasdaq lost 4.14 points or 0.05 percent to 7996.08 and S&P 500 was down by 6.61 points or 0.23 percent to 2900.45.

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