After showing a lack of direction for much of the session on Wednesday, stocks came under considerable selling pressure in the latter part of the trading day. Lingering concerns about the situation in Europe and the outlook for the U.S. economy weighed on the markets.
The major averages edged up off their worst levels going into the close but remained stuck firmly in negative territory. The Dow fell 77.42 points or 0.6 percent to 12,496.38, the Nasdaq slid 24.46 points or 0.9 percent to 2,818.61 and the S&P 500 dropped 9.30 points or 0.7 percent to 1,314.88.
The weakness that emerged on Wall Street was partly due to concerns about the U.S. economic outlook following the release of a report from the Commerce Department showing the second consecutive monthly decrease in U.S. retail sales.
The report said retail sales edged down by 0.2 percent in May, matching the revised decrease seen in April. The modest drop in sales came in line with economist estimates.
Excluding a 0.8 percent increase in sales by motor vehicle and parts dealers, retail sales fell by a steeper 0.4 percent in May compared to a 0.3 percent decrease in April.
Peter Boockvar, managing director at Miller Tabak, said, "Even with a 4.8% decline in gasoline prices in May, retail sales were mediocre as a still lackluster labor market and sluggish income growth were the main offsets."
Selling pressure was also generated by news that credit rating agency Egan-Jones downgraded Spain's sovereign rating to CCC+ from B.
The news led to renewed concerns about the ongoing European debt crisis, particularly ahead of the crucial Greek elections this weekend.
During the session, traders kept an eye on Capitol Hill, where JP Morgan (JPM) chief executive Jamie Dimon testified before the Senate Banking Committee regarding the financial giant's $2 billion trading loss.
While Dimon maintained that taxpayers were at no risk of having to foot the bill, he acknowledged that JP Morgan leadership has "let a lot of people down" and apologized.
Housing stocks showed a notable move to the downside over the course of the trading day, dragging the Philadelphia Housing Sector Index down by 2.3 percent. M/I Homes (MHO) helped to lead the sector lower, falling by 5.7 percent to its worst closing level in over a month.
Significant weakness was also visible among oil service stocks, which moved lower along with the price of crude oil. With crude for July delivery sliding $0.70 to $82.62 a barrel, the Philadelphia Oil Service Index ended the day down by 2 percent.
Networking stocks also saw considerable weakness on the day, resulting in a 1.5 percent loss by the NYSE Arca Networking Index. Alcatel-Lucent (ALU), Tellabs (TLAB), and Emulex (ELX) turned in some of the sector's worst performances.
Chemical, natural gas, and retail stocks also came under pressure, moving lower along with most of the major sectors. Meanwhile, some airline stocks bucked the downtrend.
In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region moved mostly higher on Wednesday, benefiting from the overnight rally on Wall Street. Japan's Nikkei 225 Index rose by 0.6 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index advanced by 0.8 percent.
Meanwhile, the major European markets ended the day mixed. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index crept up by 0.2 percent, the German DAX Index edged down by 0.1 percent and the French CAC 40 Index fell by 0.6 percent.
In the bond market, treasuries moved notably higher amid a positive reaction to the results of a ten-year note auction. Subsequently, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, fell by 6.2 basis points to 1.599 percent.
Trading on Thursday could be impacted by the release of U.S. reports on weekly jobless claims and consumer price inflation.
by RTT Staff Writer
For comments and feedback: email@example.com