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US: Wall Street drops for 5th day on global economy, earnings concern

[NEW YORK] US stocks fell for a fifth straight session Thursday as bank results disappointed and investors fretted over the potential impact of global economic weakness on US earnings.

Energy shares extended recent losses as oil prices settled down more than 4 percent after weak US economic data spurred worries over oil demand. The S&P energy index fell 1.2 per cent. "We're probably going to see slowing in the global economy, and it will be very difficult to sail through a global recession without getting touched," said Scott Colyer, chief executive officer of Advisors Asset Management in Monument, Colorado.

Suggesting further weakness may be ahead, the S&P 500 index closed below its 120-day moving average and ended for the first time in a month below the 2,000 mark, considered a psychological support level. The CBOE Volatility index notched a fifth day of gains, up 4.2 per cent at 22.39.

Expectations for US fourth-quarter earnings have been scaled back sharply, with growth now estimated at 3.5 per cent, compared with an Oct 1 estimate of 11.2 per cent, according to Thomson Reuters data.

The S&P financial sector dropped 1.3 per cent. Bank of America lost 5.2 per cent to US$15.20, among the S&P 500's biggest drags, after the second-largest US bank by assets reported a 14 per cent slump in quarterly profit.

Citigroup shares fell 3.7 per cent to US$47.23 after its results.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 106.38 points, or 0.61 per cent, to 17,320.71, the S&P 500 lost 18.6 points, or 0.92 per cent, to 1,992.67 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 68.50 points, or 1.48 per cent, to 4,570.82.

The S&P is now down 4.7 per cent from its Dec 29 record high.

Adding to volatility, the Swiss National Bank scrapped its cap on the franc currency in a surprise move.

US-traded Swiss stocks climbed. Credit Suisse was up 1.8 per cent at US$23.22 and Novartis jumped 3.9 per cent to US$100.58 as a strengthening franc made U.S.-dollar denominated stocks cheaper.

Best Buy shares tumbled 14.1 per cent to US$34.30 as the worst performing S&P 500 component. The electronics retailer expects same-store sales growth to be flat to negative in the first two quarters of its fiscal year.

After the bell, shares of Intel dipped 1.1 per cent to US$35.80 following its results.

US producer prices recorded their biggest fall in more than three years in December, while other reports showed mixed signals for manufacturing in New York state and the mid-Atlantic region in January.

About 7.9 billion shares changed hands on US exchanges, above the 7.3 billion average for the last five sessions, according to BATS Global Markets.

NYSE declining issues outnumbered advancers 1,995 to 1,091, for a 1.83-to-1 ratio; on the Nasdaq, 2,152 issues fell and 603 advanced for a 3.57-to-1 ratio.

The S&P 500 posted 27 new 52-week highs and 17 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 30 new highs and 134 new lows.