Another slide in raw-material producers and oil companies tugged the stock market to a slight loss on Wednesday, amid heightened concerns about global economic growth. Dow Chemical and Chevron each lost 2 percent.

At the close on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 50.6 points, about 0.3 percent, nearly at 16,380. The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost nearly 4 points, about 0.2 percent, to 1,938.8, and the Nasdaq composite gave up nearly 4 points, about 0.08 percent, to 4,752.7.

About the same time, the price of oil lost $1.66, about 3.6 percent, to $44.70 a barrel in trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It had plunged 2 percent the day before.

The news out Wednesday was hardly encouraging. A private measure of manufacturing in China hit its lowest level in six years, a result of weaker factory production, overall new orders and hiring.

That, along with plunging oil prices, could have led to a much bigger sell-off, said analyst Jim Paulsen, chief investment strategist at Wells Capital Management. But that's hardly encouraging for investors looking for a signal that the worst is over. The market has finished lower in four of the past five days.

"I'm sure there are a lot of buyers on the sidelines," he said, "but right now it doesn't seem like a very good time to buy."

The major indexes headed higher at the outset of trading Wednesday, took a sharp turn lower just before lunchtime, then climbed back almost to break-even in the afternoon. By the closing bell, the stock market wound up just shy of where it started.

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Mounting concerns about slowing global economic growth and the timing of the Federal Reserve's first interest-rate hike in nearly a decade has battered markets recently. The S&P 500, the most widely used measure of U.S. investments, has lost more than 8 percent in three months.

Anthony Valeri, a market strategist at LPL Financial, said he thinks the choppy trading will likely continue until next week, when a batch of major U.S. economic reports come out. The government releases its monthly look at the job market next Friday.