U.S. Stocks Close Lower on Economic Data and European News
06/13/2012| 05:46pm US/Eastern
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By Alexandra Scaggs
NEW YORK--Stocks sank after an up-and-down session Wednesday, as worries about Europe and weak U.S. data eclipsed earlier optimism about the outlook for financial stocks.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 0.6%, or 77.42 points, to 12496.38. The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index fell 9.3 points, or 0.7%, to 1314.88, and the Nasdaq Composite fell 24.46 points, or 0.9%, to 2818.61.
Concerns about the strength of Europe's economy moved to the forefront in late afternoon trading. Stocks fell into negative territory on jitters about demand for Italian bonds in an auction planned for Thursday.
"Italy is rearing its ugly head," said Karyn Cavanaugh, market strategist with ING Investment Management. "We did get a little bit of positive for the day, and it just fell apart at the end."
There were also reports of more Greek bank withdrawals ahead of the country's elections this Sunday.
Earlier in the session, the blue chips briefly edged up nearly 0.2%, to just above 12598, as J.P. Morgan Chase Chief Executive James Dimon testified in front of a Senate panel. The questioning was less contentious than many expected, which stoked hopes that banks wouldn't see extensive regulatory fallout from J.P. Morgan's trading loss of more than $2 billion. J.P. Morgan's stock rose $0.53, or 1.6%, to $34.30.
European markets also erased midday gains to turn lower. The Stoxx Europe 600 fell 0.4%, after being up 0.4% at its intraday high.
"We're in that gray zone, where people are waiting on this news out of Greece this weekend," said Mark Lehmann, president and director of equities with JMP Securities, referring to elections that are seen as weighing heavily on the euro-zone's immediate fate.
U.S. retail sales slipped for the second month in a row in May, the first consecutive-month decline in nearly two years. While the measure fell by less than expected in May, April retail sales were revised down into negative territory.
Asian markets largely rose following Tuesday's U.S. gains. Japan's Nikkei Stock Average added 0.6% and China's Shanghai Composite climbed 1.3%.
Crude-oil futures fell 1.1% to $82.42 a barrel, while gold futures rose 0.3% to $1,618.10 an ounce. The U.S. dollar lost ground against the euro and the yen.
In corporate news, Dell led gainers in the S&P 500, rising 0.30, or 2.6%, to $12.28 after the computer maker said it plans to start paying a quarterly cash dividend of 8 cents a share.
Johnson & Johnson gained 1.37, or 2.2%, to 64.45. The blue chip health-care company said it received regulatory clearance to close its $19.7 billion bid for medical-device maker Synthes. Analysts from J.P. Morgan Chase, Jefferies and Raymond James Financial subsequently upgraded the stock, recommending investors buy it.
Facebook edged down 0.13, or 0.5%, to 27.27. It spent much of the day in positive territory, but still hasn't posted a back-to-back gain since the week after its initial public offering.
Scotts Miracle-Gro slid 2.84, or 6.6%, to 40.21 after announcing it expects to fall short of estimates of full-year earnings and sales growth it had provided earlier.
3D Systems fell 2.35, or 7.4%, to 29.56. The company said it is offering shares of its common stock for sale to the public.
Write to Alexandra Scaggs at email@example.com