Stocks added to losses in the final minutes of trading amid concerns over the restructuring of European debt issues and a weak earnings outlook offered by U.S. retailers.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell more than 90 points after rising Thursday in the face of weak economic news as investors rallied around LinkedIn's initial public offering. The social networking site for professional rose sharply in its first day of trading, more than doubling its offering price and prompting some analysts to warn about a bubble in social mediastocks.
Alcoa led the blue-chip average lower, while Kraft gained.
TheS&P 500 and the Nasdaq also fell. The CBOE Volatility Index, widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, rose more than 9 percent to nearly 17.
Most key S&P 500 sectors declined, led by financials and industrials.
Many market observers expect a rocky patch for stocks in the months ahead. That's because several factors are at work, including the winding down of earnings season and the end of the Federal Reserve's second round of monetary stimulus, known as quantitative easing two (or QE2), in June. At the same time the markets are entering a period of time that tends to be slow for stocks, said Randy Frederick, chief of trading and derivatives at Charles Schwab.
"The odds it will be a bullish, solid equity market through summer seems pretty unlikely to me," Frederick said.
Also, the markets have been unusually correlated to the direction of commodities prices, falling along with the price of oil and precious metals, he said.
"I think they will separate, once QE2 goes away, once economic reports are solid enough that it’s clear the economic recovery can stand on its own two feet, then commodity markets can separate from equity markets," Frederick said.
- Poll: Do you think higher commodities are about to drag down the stock market?
Shares of LinkedIn continued to rise on Friday, although not at the pace of Thursday's surge. The offering was credited for lifting the market yesterday, but there was little follow-through.
"There was some excitement definitely yesterday over the LinkedIn IPO, but it didn’t make too much headway," said Paul Brigandi, vice president of trading at Direxion Funds. "That set us up for the sell-off today."
The IPO and dovish comments from the Federal Reserve—indicating the central bank doesn't plan to hike interest rates soon—were among the only positives in the market this week, and neither was enough to stop selling driven by increasing evidence of a slowdown in global growth, Brigandi said.
On Friday, the German Bundesbank said the nation may start to see a slowdown in its economy, which would be a further blow to the European Union as it struggles to contain a debt crisis in peripheral nations. Also, Fitch downgraded Greece's credit ratingto junk-bond status.
A global economic slowdown reduces global demand, which is why commodities sold off on Friday, continuing a trend that began earlier this month.
"The 'risk on' trades that have worked so well the last several months, we’re starting to see that unwind," Brigandi said.