US STOCKS-Wall inches lower on Russia sanctions; earnings curb drop
* Initial claims fall, housing starts short of estimates
* Morgan Stanley climbs after earnings
* Microsoft to cut up to 18,000 jobs, 14 percent of workforce
* Indexes off: Dow 0.07 pct, S&P 0.15 pct, Nasdaq 0.21 pct (Updates to market open, adds quote)
By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK, July 17 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks edged lower on Thursday in the wake of fresh U.S. and European Union sanctions on Russia, but some stronger-than-expected earnings reports helped keep declines in check.
The U.S. sanctions announced late Wednesday hit some of Russia's biggest firms while the EU sanctions were aimed at Russian companies that help destabilize Ukraine and will block new loans to Russia through two multilateral lenders. The Market Vectors Russia ETF dropped 3.9 percent.
As earnings season continues, Morgan Stanley shares advanced 1.3 percent to $32.91 after the bank's second-quarter earnings more than doubled, beating estimates.
Microsoft shares rose 2.9 percent to $45.34 after the company said it would cut up to 18,000 jobs, or about 14 percent of its workforce, resulting in pre-tax charges of $1.1 billion to $1.6 billion over the next four quarters. Continuación...