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U.S. stocks closed lower Wednesday, under pressure from disappointing Disney and Macy's earnings, amid sharp gains in oil following a surprise inventory draw.
"Stocks are down due to worries about consumer spending, which has been the mainstay of economic growth through this whole expansion," said Kate Warne, investment strategist at Edward Jones, noting the "overall view is still optimistic."
The Dow Jones industrial average had its worst day since Feb. 11 with a decline of 1.21 percent or 217 points. Disney contributed the most to declines as nearly all constituents closed lower and only Microsoft eking out gains. Declines in Wal-Mart, Home Depot and Nike also weighed on the index.
The S&P 500 closed 0.96 percent lower for its worst day since April 7. Consumer discretionary led nine sectors lower with a decline of nearly 2 percent in its worst day since Feb. 5.
"If you take Macy's, department stores and retailers are taking it on the chin right now because consumers are not spending as much as could be expected in the current economic environment and some of that spending is shifting to nontraditional retailers online," said Efraim Levy, senior equity analyst at Standard and Poor's, which has a "hold" rating on Macy's and a "buy" on Disney. He also noted negative impact from unseasonably warm weather this past winter.
Shares of Disney closed 4.04 percent lower, off session lows but posting its worst day since Jan. 15. Macy's closed down almost 15.2 percent and Fossil closed nearly 29.1 percent lower after reporting earnings.
"I don't think today's sell-off is a case of everyone running for the doors. You just have one really big stock that is weighing on the averages and a couple of smaller ones," said JJ Kinahan, chief strategist at TD Ameritrade.
Kinahan and other market analysts also attributed the declines in stocks to the sentiment Tuesday's gains were overdone.
The major stock averages initially pared losses after the mid-morning inventory report, with the Nasdaq composite trying for gains and the S&P 500 mildly lower.
U.S. crude oil futures settled up $1.57, or 3.52 percent, at $46.23 a barrel, its highest in six months. Oil turned higher and extended gains after the EIA's weekly inventory report showed a decline of 3.4 million barrels, versus expectations of a slight build.
However, Warne said, "the fundamental directives still are that global production is high and demand growth is slow." Meanwhile, she said higher oil prices would support higher gasoline prices and further weigh on consumer spending.
"Oil closed at a new high for the year. ... That would have translated into a good stock market but earnings (are) finally catching up to the stock market," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at First Standard Financial.
With Wednesday's declines, the Dow erased gains for the week so far, while the S&P and Nasdaq composite are on track for slight weekly gains.
Dow component Disney reported its first earnings miss in five years, while revenue was also below forecasts. Factors affecting results included decline in ESPN ad revenue due to the timing of college football playoff games and higher pre-opening expenses at Shanghai Disney Resort, the company said.
Studio revenue for the quarter increased 22 percent to $2.1 billion, powered by the box-office success of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" and animated movie "Zootopia," Reuters said.
Macy's lowered its full-year forecast, with CEO Terry J. Lundgren noting "continued weakness" in consumer spending in the press release. Quarterly earnings topped expectations, while revenue came in below estimates.
"I think in some sense more of a concern might be Macy's," Kinahan said. "It just continues to give the conundrum about what's going to happen to these brick and mortar stores going forward. They're just having a tough time and you're seeing it in earnings."
He's watching Nordstrom earnings, due after the close Thursday, and April retail sales, expected Friday morning.
In other corporate news, Staples and Office Depot ended their planned merger deal after a judge sided with the Federal Trade Commission in its effort to block the deal on competitive grounds. The companies do not plan to appeal the decision.
Shares of Office Depot plunged nearly 40.4 percent for its worst day since its IPO in 1988. Staples closed 18.3 percent lower.
The U.S. dollar index fell about half a percent, following its first six-day win streak since April last year. The euro was last near $1.143 and the yen around 108.4 yen against the greenback.
Gold futures for June delivery settled up $10.70 at $1,275.50 an ounce.
Treasury yields were lower, with the 2-year yield around 0.72 percent and the 10-year yield near 1.73 percent.
In the afternoon, the Treasury Department sold $23 billion in 10-year notes at a high yield of 1.71 percent.
European stocks closed about half a percent lower or more, with bank stocks underperforming. Asian stocks were mixed, with the Nikkei 225 and Shanghai composite mildly higher and the Hang Seng down 0.9 percent.
U.S. stocks closed more than 1 percent higher Tuesday, with the Dow Jones industrial average posting its best day since March 11.
American Petroleum Institute data late Tuesday showed crude inventories rose by 3.45 million barrels in the week to May 6 to 543.1 million, compared with analysts' expectations for an increase of 714,000 barrels, Reuters said. Crude stocks at the Cushing, Oklahoma, delivery hub rose by 1.46 million barrels, API said in the newswire report.
The closed down 19.93 points, or 0.96 percent, at 2,064.46, with consumer discretionary leading nine sectors lower and utilities the only gainer.
The Nasdaq composite closed down 49.19 points, or 1.02 percent, at 4,760.69. The iShares Nasdaq Biotechnology ETF (IBB) lost 3 percent. Declines in Apple and Gilead Sciences also weighed, while Amazon.com and Electronic Arts were among the few gainers.
The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX), widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, rose to trade near 14.5.
Roughly two stocks declined for every advancer on the New York Stock Exchange, with an exchange volume of 930 million and a composite volume of 3.7 billion in the close.
—CNBC's Peter Schacknow and Reuters contributed to this report.
On tap this week:
Earnings: CA, NetEase
Earnings: Dr. Reddy's Labs, Kohl's, Ralph Lauren, Nordstrom, Nvidia, Symantec, Shake Shack
8:30 a.m. Initial claims; import prices
11 a.m. Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester
11:45 a.m. Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren
1 p.m. $15 billion 30-year bond auction
2:15 p.m. Kansas City Fed President Esther George
Earnings: Honda Motor, Brookfield Asset Mgmt., JC Penney
8:30 a.m. Retail sales
8:30 a.m. PPI
10 a.m. Consumer sentiment
10 a.m. Business inventories
6:25 p.m. San Francisco Fed's Williams
*Planner subject to change.
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