Wall St sells off in late session; Dow below 16,000

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange at the closing bell on Nov 18, 2013. United States (US) stocks hit session lows in late afternoon trade on Monday with the Dow turning negative and the Nasdaq falling more than 1 per cent.
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange at the closing bell on Nov 18, 2013. United States (US) stocks hit session lows in late afternoon trade on Monday with the Dow turning negative and the Nasdaq falling more than 1 per cent. -- PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - United States (US) stocks hit session lows in late afternoon trade on Monday with the Dow turning negative and the Nasdaq falling more than 1 per cent.

The decline came a few minutes after activist investor Carl Icahn told Reuters that he is "very cautious" on equities, and that the market could easily have a "big drop". The Dow retreated from a record high, back below the 16,000 level that it had hit for the first time in history, and the S&P 500 was now 10 points below the 1,800 level.

The Nasdaq fell nearly 1 per cent, further pressured by social media and cloud-related stocks including Facebook, down more than 6 per cent at US$45.95.

Shares of another social media giant, Twitter Inc, dipped nearly 7 per cent to US$41.04.

Apple Inc shares dropped more than 1 per cent to US$518.94.

The Dow Jones industrial average was down 5.30 points, or 0.03 per cent, at 15,956.40. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was down 8.35 points, or 0.46 per cent, at 1,789.83.

The Nasdaq Composite Index was down 38.67 points, or 0.97 per cent, at 3,947.30.

The S&P 500 had earlier hit 1,802.33 and the Dow touched 16,030.28, their highest levels ever. On Friday, both closed at record highs in their sixth straight week of gains.

Boeing Co shares, which rose as high as US$142.00 earlier, lifting the blue chip Dow index for most of the day, were up 1.4 per cent at US$138.02 in late afternoon trade. The US planemaker, at the Dubai Airshow on Sunday, announced commitments for a total of 259 of its new 777 jets. Worth about US$100 billion (S$125 billion) at list prices, it is the largest combined order in Boeing's history.

Tesla also extended losses, down more than 11 per cent at US$119.83, giving up more than 20 per cent for the month so far.

A number of US Federal Reserve speakers offered more insights into the central bank's stimulus. The latest was Mr Charles Plosser, president of the Philadelphia Fed, who said improved economic and labour market conditions suggest the Fed should set a fixed dollar amount on its current bond-buying programme and end the programme when that amount is reached.

Mr William Dudley, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, said on Monday that he was becoming "more hopeful"about the US economy.

But with intervention from the Fed likely to keep interest rates near zero for the foreseeable future, equities are expected to continue to attract yield-seeking investors, even after the Fed begins to scale back its asset purchases.