February 23, 2024

Wall Street Slips as Oil and Commodities Drop

Demand for gasoline in the United States fell by the largest amount in seven weeks, the Energy Information Administration said, a signal that consumers are conserving money as gas prices near a national average of $4 a gallon. Gas futures fell almost 8 percent. Crude oil fell back below $100 a barrel, a loss of more than 4 percent.

Fewer fill-ups may result in a drop in consumer and business spending as customers forgo trips to malls and restaurants and companies ship fewer products. That, in turn, could lead to lower corporate earnings and halt a stock rally that has sent the stock market up 7 percent this year.

“People are becoming more conservative in their outlook and their spending as oil prices have risen, and that’s making the market become more concerned about growth,” said Quincy Krosby, the chief strategist at Prudential Financial.

The fall in demand for gas means that traders will take a close look at Thursday’s weekly report on first-time applications for unemployment benefits to see if companies are cutting back in other areas as well, Ms. Krosby said.

Stocks fell broadly, with energy and materials companies suffering the worst declines. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 130.33 points to close at 12,630.03. The Standard Poor’s 500-stock index fell 15 points, or 1.1 percent, to 1,342.08. The Nasdaq composite lost 26.83 points, or 0.9 percent, to 2,845.06.

The market’s losses accelerated shortly before noon. The dollar and government bond prices rose as traders moved money into safer assets. The dollar rose 0.8 percent against a group of other major currencies, and the euro dropped 1.5 percent against the dollar.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 3.16 percent from 3.22 percent late Tuesday. Bond yields fall when their prices rise.

Energy stocks fell 3 percent, the most of any of the 10 industries in the S.P. 500 index. Cabot Oil Gas fell more than 5 percent.

Materials producers also struggled after metals prices sank. Freeport McMoRan Copper Gold, a miner, fell 5.6 percent. Copper fell 3.2 percent, and silver lost 7.7 percent. Silver fell sharply last week as part of a sell-off in commodities.

Commodities are still more expensive than they were a year ago. High oil prices helped push the nation’s trade deficit up 6 percent to $48.2 billion in March from February. American companies sold more automobiles and other goods and services to customers abroad, but it wasn’t enough to make up for an 18 percent rise in oil imports.

Strong earnings have been carrying the market higher since the beginning of 2011. On Tuesday the SP 500 climbed for the third straight day to within 0.5 percent of its highest close for the year.

“Every time that stocks start to go down a little bit, you’re seeing more selling pile on because people have made so much profit over the past 9 months,” said Uri Landesman, president of Platinum Partners, a New York-based hedge fund.

Walt Disney’s results late Tuesday fell short of expectations, and its stock fell 5.4 percent, the most of the 30 stocks that make up the Dow. The earthquake that struck Japan in March cut into revenues at its theme parks there, and its movie studio profits took a hit from the box-office bomb “Mars Needs Moms.”

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Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=c350813aca651faabdc13d4a1e43db6d

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