Stocks skid for second month; Dow falls 250 pts

U.S. stocks declined on Friday, with benchmarks down for a second month, after data showed U.S. economic growth slowed sharply in the fourth quarter and Russia's central bank unexpectedly cut is benchmark interest rate.

"Russia has joined the QE party; I'm not sure that helped," said JJ Kinahan, chief strategist at TD Ameritrade.

"It means the crude situation is having a bigger effect than many would like to acknowledge," Kinahan said of the surprise move, which indicates the Bank of Russia is shifting its priorities from curbing rising inflation and backing the rouble to supporting economic activity.

Already deep under water, stock futures retained stiff losses after the Commerce Department reported gross domestic product expanded at a 2.6 percent annual rate after the third quarter's 5 percent jaw-dripping pace.

Analysts had projected the economy would expand at a 3 percent rate in the final quarter of 2014.

"We got a bit of a disappointment with the GDP numbers. Outside of that it's still SOS. We're still in that awkward spot between monetary tightening that the Fed has said they will do, and the economic data coming out that's not that great," said Paul Nolte, senior vice president, portfolio manager at Kingsview Asset Management in Chicago.

"We've got quantitative easing around the world -- sans the United States -- and deflation around much of the world. A lot of people are questioning the wisdom of raising interest rates at this point," he added.

U.S. consumer sentiment climbed in January to its highest in 11 years, with that confidence illustrated in some quarterly earnings, with Amazon.com rallying after reporting results that topped estimates on strong holiday sales.

U.S. stocks furthered their fall after the Greek government said it would not seek an extension of the bailout program with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

"It does seem to have soured the mood a little bit. But with volatility the way it is, there are still a lot of things to rattle the market," said Randy Frederick, managing director of trading and derivatives at Charles Schwab.

Chevron dropped after the oil producer and Dow component reported a 30 percent decline in quarterly profit; Apple fell, reversing course after climbing to a record $120 a share. Shake Shack jumped in its market debut.

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DJIA
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S&P 500
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NASDAQ
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The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 251.90 points, or 1.5 percent, to 17,164.95. The payment processor jumped more than 4 percent after reporting a better-than-expected quarterly profit late Thursday.

The S&P 500 declined 26.26 points, or 1.3 percent, 1,994.99; consumer discretionary leading losses and energy the sole sector in 10 gaining.

The Nasdaq shed 48.17 points, or 1 percent, at 4,635.24.

For every share rising, two declined on the New York Stock Exchange, where 1.2 billion shares traded. Composite volume neared 4.6 billion.

Trader on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
Carlo Allegri | Reuters
Trader on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

Crude futures rose $3.71, or 8 percent, to $48.24 a barrel, and gold futures climbed $23.90, or 2 percent, to $1,278.50 on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The U.S. dollar continued to climb against other global currencies and the yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell 9 basis points to 1.6662 percent.

Crude's late-session spike came after oilfield-services firm Baker Hughes reported the number of U.S. rigs in operation fell by another 94 in the past week through Friday.

"Twenty percent of rigs came off line in the last year, and a third of that decline came in the last week, that's what caused crude to spoke, supply came down sooner than we thought," Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities said.

On Thursday, U.S. stocks gained, bouncing back from a two-day rout, after the price of U.S. crude reversed higher, easing concerns for investors looking for oil prices to steady, and Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen's reported comments offset rate worries.

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