NEW YORKâGrowth-sensitive sectors helped pull major indexes lower, amid worries about Europe and underwhelming data on the U.S. economy.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average declined 42.47 points, or 0.3%, to 13944.05, further retreating from multiyear highs hit Feb. 1.
The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index tilted lower by 2.73 points, or 0.2%, to 1509.39. The materials and energy sectorsâall considered closely tied to global growthâwere the biggest decliners. The Nasdaq Composite Index declined 3.34 points, or 0.1%, to 3165.13.
Still, stocks closed well above their lows for the day. The blue chips fell as much as 134 points before later recouping some of their losses. Thursday was the fourth trading session out of five in February in which the Dow industrials had triple-digit swings intraday.
"There's a lot of crosscurrents" in the stock market, said Craig Hodges, portfolio manager with Hodges Funds, which oversees about $1 billion. "We're probably due for a little bit of a setback."
In the U.S., jobless claims declined in the latest week to 366,000. While that was more claims than the 360,000 expected, the four-week moving average of initial claims, which smooths out week-to-week volatility, fell to levels not seen since 2008.
"The bulls and bears can both pull something out of it," said Uri Landesman, president of $1.1 billion hedge fund Platinum Partners.
The first read of fourth-quarter productivity showed a decline of 2% on the quarter, a bigger drop than the 1.6% expected. Unit labor costs rose 4.5%, more than the 3.2% gain expected.
Consumer credit for December expanded by $14.6 billion on the month, more than the $13 billion expected.
European markets closed broadly lower after European Central Bank President Mario Draghi spoke to the press, addressing recent gains in the euro that he said could keep a damper on inflation. The ECB left key interest rates unchanged, as widely expected. The Stoxx Europe 600 lost 0.2%.
In corporate news, US Airways Group (LCC)
In Asia, Japan's Nikkei Stock Average fell 0.9%, pulling back from Wednesday's 3.8% surge, amid a sharp drop in Nikon shares following disappointing quarterly results. China's Shanghai Composite slipped 0.7% to snap an eight-session win streak.
Crude-oil futures declined 0.8% to settle at $95.83 a barrel, while front-month February gold futures edged down 0.4% to settle at $1,670.40 a troy ounce. The dollar gained sharply against the euro on Mr. Draghi's comments, and edged higher against the yen. Yields on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury bond fell to 1.951% as prices rose.
In other corporate news, Sprint Nextel (S)
Three-dimensional printer maker ExOne jumped in its public trading debut, amid healthy investor appetite for three-dimensional-printer shares.
Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (GMCR)
Akamai Technologies (AKAM)
Limited Brands (LTD)
Caesars Entertainment and fellow casino operator Boyd Gaming (BYD)
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