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 rising 0.2 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.