NEW YORK, Oct 9 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks edged lower on Thursday as concerns over global growth spurred investors to take profits following a massive advance in the previous session.
While domestic news - including jobless claims data and corporate earnings - was encouraging, investors continued a recent trend of taking their trading cues from abroad.
German exports dropped by 5.8 percent in August, their biggest fall since January 2009. The data was the latest indication, following bearish reads on industrial output and industrial orders, that Europe's largest economy was faltering amid broader weakness in the euro zone. Separately, data this week showed growth in the Chinese services sector weakened slightly in September.
"Right now, one of the main preoccupations investors have is what's going on in the international economy, which has gravely complicated the outlook for the global economy," said Bernard Baumohl, managing director at the Economic Outlook Group in Princeton, New Jersey.
The third-quarter earnings season got off to a strong start, with both Alcoa Inc and PepsiCo Inc rallying after results topped expectations.
Alcoa rose 0.8 percent to $16.19 while PepsiCo was up 0.9 percent at $94.79.
On the downside, Gap Inc plunged 12 percent to $36.94 as the S&P 500's biggest decliner a day after it reported weaker-than-expected same-store sales for September and said its chief executive would retire in February.
Jobless claims dropped 1,000 to a seasonally adjusted 287,000 in the latest week. The report supported September jobs data, which also pointed to improving conditions in the labor market.
Wall Street soared on Wednesday, with major indexes posting their biggest one-day jump of the year after the Federal Reserve reassured investors its first rate hike would come when economic data pointed to an economy that could grow without Fed stimulus, rather than on a specific schedule. With the day's advance, the S&P 500 jumped back above its 100-day moving average, a sign of improving near-term momentum.
"If investors are trying to figure out where to place their funds, the U.S. equity market looks better than pretty much anywhere else," said Baumohl.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 45.98 points, or 0.27 percent, to 16,948.24, the S&P 500 lost 5.75 points, or 0.29 percent, to 1,963.14 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 13.41 points, or 0.3 percent, to 4,455.19.
Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by 1,801 to 888, for a 2.03-to-1 ratio; on the Nasdaq, 1,616 issues were fell and 573 advanced for a 2.82-to-1 ratio favoring decliners.
The benchmark S&P 500 index posted 18 new 52-week highs and no new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 14 new highs and 33 new lows.
Editing by Bernadette Baum