US stocks fall for fourth straight day

NEW YORK (AFP) - Wall Street stocks dropped on Wednesday on a bruising day for global markets following a disappointing US retail sales report and a weak global economic forecast from the World Bank.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average sank 186.59 points (1.06 per cent) to 17,427.09, falling for the fourth straight day.

The broad-based S&P 500 shed 11.76 (0.58 per cent) to 2,011.27 after earlier slipping below 2,000, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index fell 22.18 (0.48 per cent) to 4,639.32.

US stocks were in the red all day, but rallied somewhat after crude oil prices closed higher and after a Federal Reserve report characterised the United States economy as broadly expanding.

European equity markets had also fallen sharply.

Key drivers of Wednesday's sell-off included a cut in the World Bank's 2015 economic forecast and a 0.9 per cent drop in US retail sales in December.

"There's just a lot of concern in terms of global growth," said William Lynch director of investment, Hinsdale Associates.

Dow member JPMorgan Chase fell 3.5 per cent after reporting a 6.6 per cent drop in fourth-quarter earnings to US$4.9 billion (S$6.5 billion) following US$1 billion in legal expenses.

The results fell short of expectations.

Wells Fargo lost 1.2 per cent after notching earnings of US$1.02 per share, matching expectations.

Bank of America and Citigroup, both of which report earnings Thursday, fell 2.5 per cent and 1.9 per cent, respectively.

General Motors fell 2.7 per cent after it said it spent nearly US$2 billion for recalls and victims' compensation in 2014.

The biggest US automaker projected improved earnings and margins in 2015 behind "modest" growth in overall auto sales worldwide.

Electric-car maker Tesla Motors sank 5.7 per cent after founder and chief executive Elon Musk acknowledged lower fuel costs threaten the electric car industry and said the company probably will not be profitable until 2020.

Metals producers suffered as copper prices fell sharply. Freeport-McMoran slumped 10.9 percent, while Southern Copper lost 3.7 per cent.

Retail stocks retreated, including Dow member Wal-Mart Stores (-3.0 per cent), Target (-2.1 per cent) and TJX (-1.4 per cent), owner of Marshall's and other discount chains.

Bond prices rose. The yield, which moves inversely to price, on the 10-year US Treasury fell to 1.84 per cent from 1.90 per cent Tuesday, while the 30-year dropped to 2.46 per cent from 2.50 per cent after earlier sliding to a record low of 2.39 per cent.