Dow plunges after weak earnings from Caterpillar, Microsoft; drop in durable-good orders

The Dow Jones industrial average has dropped nearly 400 points in late morning trading after disappointing earnings reports and a surprise drop in orders for long-lasting goods.

The Dow was off 357 points, or 2 per cent, to 17,321 as of 10:42 a.m. Eastern time Tuesday and at one point slid as much as 390 points. Caterpillar and Microsoft, which are members of the Dow, reported weaker results, and their shares fell sharply.

Orders for long-lasting manufactured goods fell 3.4 per cent in December following a 2.1 per cent decline in November, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday. The decline was led by a 55.5 per cent plunge in the volatile category of commercial aircraft.