(c) 2013, Bloomberg News.

(c) 2013, Bloomberg News.

NEW YORK U.S. stocks fell Thursday, giving the Standard & Poor's 500 index its first two-day slide in three weeks, on speculation the Federal Reserve will scale back stimulus in coming months as investors assessed earnings.

Visa lost 3.5 percent as the bank-card network said revenue rose less than projected. Avon Products fell 22 percent after saying possible fines related to foreign bribery probes may hurt earnings. Facebook and Exxon Mobil jumped more than 0.9 percent after earnings topped estimates. Boeing advanced 0.6 percent after saying it would step-up production of its 737 jets.

The S&P 500 dropped 0.4 percent to 1,756.54, after fluctuating between gains and losses during the day. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 73.01 points, or 0.5 percent, to 15,545.75. About 7.2 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, 21 percent above the three-month average.

The S&P 500 on Wednesday fell 0.5 percent from a record yesterday, halting four days of gains, as the Fed fueled bets it may begin to cut stimulus in the coming months. The central bank maintained $85 billion in monthly bond purchases, saying that while the economy shows signs of "underlying strength" it needs to see more evidence of sustainable improvement.

Economists at Citigroup and Barclays said Wednesday's Fed policy statement opens the possibility of reduced bond purchases as soon as December. The odds of a taper in January rose to 45 percent, from 25 percent before the decision, according to Citigroup. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg Oct. 17-18 had predicted the Fed would begin paring stimulus in March.

Fed stimulus has helped propel the S&P 500 higher by more than 160 percent from a 12-year low in 2009. The gauge surged 4.5 percent in October, for the biggest monthly gain since July, as lawmakers ended a 16-day government shutdown and agreed to extend the U.S. borrowing authority, avoiding a possible debt default.

Stocks slumped earlier Thursday after a report showed business activity in the U.S. expanded in October as orders and production surged. The MNI Chicago Report business barometer jumped to 65.9 from 55.7 in September, the biggest monthly increase in more than three decades. Readings above 50 signal expansion.

Separate data showed fewer Americans filed applications for unemployment benefits last week as a backlog in California's reporting cleared.

The Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index, the gauge known as VIX that measures options traders' estimate of future price swings in the S&P 500, rose 0.7 percent to 13.75. The gauge lost 17 percent for the month.

Nine out of 10 main groups in the S&P 500 fell Thursday, as financial shares slid 1.1 percent for the biggest decline. Consumer-discretionary companies added 0.2 percent as a group.

Visa lost 3.5 percent to $196.67 for the largest decline in the Dow. Fourth-quarter net operating revenue rose 8.9 percent to $2.97 billion, missing the $3.02 billion average estimate of analysts in a Bloomberg survey.

Avon tumbled 22 percent, the most since 1999, to $17.50. The world's largest door-to-door cosmetics seller posted a third-quarter net loss, while its profit excluding some items fell short of analyst estimates.

Avon and the U.S. government have investigated whether former employees in China and other countries bribed officials in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The Securities and Exchange Commission offered a settlement last month with monetary penalties that were "significantly greater" than the $12 million the company had offered, Avon said in a filing Thursday.

Computer Sciences Corp. lost 4.5 percent to $49.26. The provider of technology consulting to governments and companies signaled that a probe by the SEC is escalating.

As part of an almost three-year investigation by the SEC, former U.S. executives, along with some current employees outside the country, have received Wells notices from the commission, CSC said Thursday in a filing. The SEC sends a Wells notice to notify that investigators may recommend an enforcement action.

JDS Uniphase fell 11 percent to $13.09. The provider of network analytics for the telecommunications and broadband industries was cut to hold from buy at Jefferies by equity analyst James Kisner after forecasting sales below analyst estimates for this quarter.

Exxon rose 0.9 percent to $89.62 for the biggest gain in the Dow. The largest oil company by market value lifted production for the first time in more than two years and reported third-quarter profit that beat analyst estimates.

Facebook advanced 2.4 percent to $50.21, reversing a decline of as much as 5.1 percent, after the operator of the world's largest social network Thursday reported third-quarter profit that beat analyst estimates.

The shares slid earlier after Facebook said younger teens aren't using its website as much as they used to and announced plans to limit its news feed advertisements that have driven revenue gains.

Pivotal Research Group upgraded the shares to buy from hold, saying Facebook retains its advantage in ad sales and the negative reaction to comments about lower teen use was overdone.

Boeing gained 0.6 percent to $130.50. The world's largest plane-maker plans to speed the monthly production tempo of its best-selling 737 jets by 24 percent to 47 a month by 2017, the highest rate ever.

Expedia rallied 18 percent to $58.97. Adjusted earnings were $1.43 per share in the third quarter, the online travel company said in a statement, more than the $1.36 predicted by analysts.

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