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U.S. stocks slide as lower oil prices sink energy sector

People walk by the New York Stock Exchange

People walk by the New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street at the end of trading on Nov. 28, 2012. Credit: Getty Images / Spencer Platt

U.S. stocks ended the day with losses Wednesday as energy companies fell with the price of oil and makers of chemicals and other materials took losses. A survey of private employers showed that hiring continued at a solid pace in August. Stocks are on track for their first monthly loss since February.

ON WALL STREET: At the close, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 48.9 points, about 0.3 percent, at 18,405.4. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index gave up 4.7 points, about 0.2 percent, to 2,171.7. The Nasdaq composite dipped 7 points, about 0.1 percent, to 5,215.7.

ENERGY PRICES: Energy prices slumped after the U.S. government said crude oil stockpiles increased by 2.3 million barrels last week, a bigger gain than analysts expected. Gasoline stockpiles shrank, but not as much as investors had hoped.

OIL PRICES: As markets were closing, benchmark U.S. crude oil was down $1.63 at $44.72 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. In London, Brent crude, used to price oil internationally, lost $1.33 to $47.04 a barrel.

Chevron gave up $1.67, or 1.6 percent, to $100.03 and Exxon Mobil skidded $1.13, or 1.3 percent, to $86.39. Schlumberger declined $1.68, or 2.1 percent, to $78.96.

JOBS DATA: Private U.S. businesses added 177,000 jobs in August, according to a survey by payroll processor ADP. After weak hiring this spring, results from July and August suggest employers are bringing on workers at a healthy clip. The federal government will release its own jobs figures on Friday, and analysts expect a gain of 180,000 jobs. Investors think the Federal Reserve is more likely to raise interest rates later this year if hiring stays solid.

DOG DAYS OF SUMMER: Stocks aren’t far from record highs, but they have fallen four of the last five days. The S&P 500 is down about 0.4 percent in August, putting a five-month winning streak in jeopardy. The biggest losses have gone to phone and utility companies, while concerns over drug pricing have affected health care stocks. Banks have risen the most as investors grow more optimistic that interest rates will increase.


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