Stock rally falters on disappointing profits

NEW YORK - The stock market closed slightly lower Wednesday as several U.S. companies reported disappointing earnings. The decline broke a six-day winning streak.

Avery Dennison, Amgen and Norfolk Southern fell after reporting results. Not all the earnings news was bad. Delta Air Lines rose 6 percent after its earnings climbed. Delta is making more money by filling more seats and paying less for fuel.

The S&P 500 index fell 4 to close at 1,875. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 12 to 16,501. The Nasdaq composite fell 34 to 4,126.

Sales of new US homes skid 14.5% for March

WASHINGTON - The number of Americans buying new homes plummeted in March to the slowest pace in seven months, a sign that real estate's spring buying season is off to a weak start.

The Commerce Department said Wednesday sales of new homes declined 14.5 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 384,000. That was the second straight monthly decline and the lowest rate since July 2013.

Home sales usually improve with the start of the spring. Builders anticipated a snap back with the warmer weather.

Apple increases stock buyback and dividend

CUPERTINO, Calif. - Apple plans to buy back an additional $30 billion of its stock and raise its quarterly dividend by 8 percent amid a slowdown in revenue growth.

The commitment announced Wednesday as part of Apple's fiscal second-quarter earnings report expands on the company's previous pledge to spend $60 billion on stock buybacks by the end of next year. The company is now earmarking $90 billion for buybacks during that time frame.

Apple also is raising its quarterly dividend to $3.29 a share in an effort to funnel more cash to stockholders.

Facebook's 1Q results soar; CFO to step down

NEW YORK - Facebook's first-quarter earnings and revenue grew sharply, surpassing Wall Street's expectations thanks to an 82 percent increase in advertising revenue.

The social network said Wednesday that it earned $642 million in the January-March quarter.Revenue was $2.5 billion, up 71 percent.

Facebook also said its finance chief, David Ebersman, is leaving June 1. He'll be replaced by David Wehner, vice president of corporate finance.

Procter & Gamble's net income up on cost cuts

NEW YORK - Procter & Gamble's fiscal third-quarter net income rose 2 percent as it cut costs to offset sluggish sales in categories like beauty and family products.

The world's largest consumer product maker's adjusted earnings topped analysts' estimates, but revenue fell short.

Since CEO A.G. Lafley returned in May, P&G has focused on profitable markets and products and on introducing new products. It sold off most of its pet-care business this month for $2.9 billion.

Textron is cutting 750 Cessna, Beechcraft jobs

NEW YORK - Just over a month after buying Beechcraft for $1.4 billion, Textron announced 750 job cuts at that company and at its Cessna division.

The layoffs will occur over the next 60 days. Both aircraft makers are based in Wichita, Kan., and Textron says about 575 of the affected jobs are based in Kansas.

Wichita has also endured extensive job cuts after Boeing said it would shut facilities in the area in response to cuts in defense spending. The move affected more than 2,000 jobs.

Amazon snares classic shows in deal with HBO

NEW YORK - Fans of classic HBO shows like "The Sopranos" and "The Wire" will soon have access to those series and more through Amazon Prime in the first online streaming deal inked by the cable network.

Starting May 21, Amazon Prime members, who pay $99 a year, will also have access to "Six Feet Under," "Big Love," as well as early seasons of "Boardwalk Empire" and "True Blood." Past seasons of newer shows will also become available in the multiyear deal. Original movies and specials will also become available.

There was no mention of "Game of Thrones," one of the most pirated shows in history.

The exclusive HBO deal is a big win for Amazon, which is competing with Netflix and Hulu for streaming viewers.

Wire reports