Stocks finished lower Monday, as weakness in financials and energy stocks overpowered a sharp drop in oil price typical of what usually pushes the market higher.
The Dow made several brief ventures into positive territory during the day but couldn't hold there. The bluechip index finished less than 0.5 percent lower, while the S&P and the Nasdaq registered losses around 1 percent.
Energy stocks held Wall Street from the strong gains usually associated with a downturn in oil, exacerbated by broad losses across the commodities spectrum and a general weakness in financials, though the sector pared earlier losses.
U.S. light, sweet crude lost nearly $4 per barrel to near $121 as the dollar turned stronger and commodities tumbled across energy, grain and metals.
"Two weeks ago this market would have been up 150 points on that news," Art Cashin, director of floor operations at UBS, said of the oil move.
On the upside, consumer stocks showed some strength. Pfizer and Coca-Cola led gainers on the Dow, while ExxonMobil pointed the way for most leading energy producers on the way down.
The market earlier was shaken by inflationary pressures amplified by a series of economic data releases that showed continued higher costs in the marketplace and stagnant wages, even as factory production continued to grow.
Range Resources led the S&P losers as energy stocks were crushed by the downturn in oil.
Financials also pulled the market lower, with Wachovia and Freddie Mac sinking on continued fears over the health of the mortgage market. In tandem, home builders also slid lower as Oppenheimer analyst Meredith Whitney said on CNBCthat real estate prices would continue to move lower. Pulte Homes was the biggest loser on the S&P in the home builder sector.
"What happens with the bank stocks depends greatly on what happens with the housing market ... If housing prices keep going down, the banks are going to have lingering problems," Cashin said on CNBC.