U.S. stocks declined for a fourth session on Wednesday as December retail sales failed to live up to expectations and investors worried about global economic growth.
Stocks came off session lows as crude reversed higher and after the release of the Federal Reserve's Beige Book, which had central bankers expressing hopes for better U.S. growth.
"The economy is slowly seeing signs of improving, the overall trend will continue to be modest improvement, but we will be hit with concerns," Robert Pavlik, chief market strategist at Boston Private Wealth, said.
Already sharply lower, stock futures fell harder ahead of the opening bell after the Commerce Department reported retail sales slid the most in a year last month, down 0.9 percent.
"Although consumers are saving at the pump, it doesn't look like they are spending it at the stores; retail sales are an unmitigated disaster," Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities, said.
A later economic report came in as expected, with U.S. business inventories percent in November.
"The good news is that the ECB (European Central Bank) got a positive ruling last night so they can move forward with quantitative easing, unfortunately the bad news is JPMorgan reported a sloppy number," Hogan said.
The ongoing decline in the price of crude extended to metals, with the price of copper stumbling as the World Bank reduced its global growth forecast, pointing to soft expansion in Europe and China.
After a 348-point drop, the Dow Jones Industrial Average ended at 17,427.09, off 186.59 points, or 1.1 percent.
JPMorgan Chase led blue-chip losses that included 27 of 30 components.
The dropped 11.76 points, or 0.6 percent, to 2,011.27, with financials weighing the most among its 10 major industries.
The Nasdaq shed 22.18 points, or 0.5 percent, to 4,639.32.
For every two shares rising, roughly three fell on the New York Stock Exchange, where nearly 929 million shares traded. Composite volume neared 4.4 billion.
On the New York Mercantile Exchange, crude prices wavered after an inventory report from the Energy Information Administration, before jumping 5.6 percent to $48.48 a barrel.
Gold also rose, with futures ending at $1,234.50 an ounce.
On Tuesday, U.S. stocks, after a near 300-point rally on the Dow evaporated amid falling commodity prices and worries Germany would throw cold water on the European Central Bank taking additional steps to bolster the region's economy.
"We've gone from day-to-day volatility to intraday volatility," Mark Luschini, chief market strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott, said.
Coming Up This Week:
Earnings after the bell: Intel
8:30 a.m.: Jobless claims, weekly
8:30 a.m.: Empire State survey for January
10 a.m.: Philadelphia Fed survey
Earnings before the bell: Goldman Sachs Group
8:30 a.m.: CPI for December
9:15 a.m.: Capacity utilization for December
10 a.m.: Consumer sentiment, preliminary for January
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