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Stocks slump again on Wall Street, extending weekly losses

Specialist Matthew Grenier works on the floor of

Specialist Matthew Grenier works on the floor of the NYSE on Tuesday. Credit: AP / Richard Drew

Technology and financial companies helped pull U.S. stocks broadly lower Thursday, marking the fourth straight loss for the S&P 500. The benchmark index is now on track for its first weekly drop since January.

Losses in health care stocks and big retailers also weighed on the market. Utilities eked out a gain as investors sought out safer holdings.

With fourth-quarter earnings having wound down and lingering uncertainty over trade talks between the U.S. and China, traders have had little reason to extend the gains the market has made since early this year.

The wave of selling on Wall Street followed a sell-off in European indexes after the European Central Bank delayed its next interest rate hike and announced a new round of cheap loans for banks. Traders saw the move as an acknowledgement of weaker economic growth by the central bank, stoking investors' worries that the global economy is slowing.

"The tone for the day was pretty much set by the ECB," said Erik Davidson, chief investment officer at Wells Fargo Private Bank. "Normally, the market would respond well to this very accommodative monetary policy, but the comments around it and concerns for the Eurozone economy are probably what's put the market back on its heels."

A lack of concrete news on trade and lingering economic concerns have been weighing on stocks all week.

Meanwhile, traders have been combing company earnings reports and economic data for clues about the trajectory of the global economy, which has been showing signs of slowing. Investors will get a better look at U.S. economic trends Friday, when the government releases key data on jobs and new home construction.

The S&P 500 declined 0.8 percent, to 2,748.93. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 200.23 points, or 0.8 percent, to 25,473.23. The average was briefly down more than 320 points. The Nasdaq composite dropped 1.1 percent, to 7,421.46. 

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