Wall Street ended an erratic day today with a lopsided loss, as blue chip stocks bore the brunt of investors’ concerns over the health of the financial sector. The Dow Jones industrials fell more than 100 points, but the other major indexes finished with single-digit losses.
High-tech and small-capitalisation stocks fared better than the broader market, proof that investors were wary and choosy. The market started the day disappointed by the government’s retail sales report, and a jump in oil prices further dampened the mood.
With many investors on vacation, and therefore fewer people trading, price moves were exaggerated.
“We’re in that part of the summer where volume tends to be light, conviction tends to be minimal,” said Joseph Battipaglia, chief investment officer at Ryan Beck & Co.
The Dow fell 109.51, or 0.94%, to 11,532.96 after falling more than 150 points earlier in the session and just under 140 points on Tuesday.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 index slipped 3.76, or 0.29%, to 1,285.83, while the Nasdaq composite index fell 1.99, or 0.08 percent, to 2,428.62.
The Commerce Department said retail sales slipped 0.1 percent as rising prices helped offset the effect of economic stimulus payments to U.S. households. Excluding a big drop in sales of automobiles, retail sales rose 0.4%. But even on that basis it was the weakest showing in five months.
Wall Street had expected sales to remain flat after a minor increase in June. The report followed a warning from department store bellwether Macy’s Inc. that its full-year profits would fall short of expectations because of slower sales.
The advance in oil prices also tinged investor sentiment. Light, sweet crude rose 2.99 to 116 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange after the government said U.S. crude supplies fell unexpectedly last week.