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US: Retail woes, cheaper oil push stocks lower

People pass by the Macy's flagship department store in midtown Manhattan in New York City on Nov 11, 2015.

[NEW YORK] Worries about US retail sales and sinking oil prices sent Wall Street shares lower on Wednesday.

A dismal third-quarter report by department store chain Macy's, which slashed its year-end forecast, spilled through the broad retailing industry.

Another fall in oil prices, on the back of a new report on brimming US stockpiles, meanwhile sent oil company shares dropping as well.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished down 55.99 points (0.32 per cent) at 17,702.22.

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The broad-based S&P 500 slipped 6.72 points (0.32 per cent) to 2,075.00, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite lost 16.22 (0.32 per cent) at 5,067.02.

Trade was lighter for the Veterans Day holiday - which saw bond markets closed - and analysts said investors remained cautious after a six-week winning streak.

"Reminiscent of trick-or-treaters who overindulged on Halloween candy, equity markets now appear to be digesting the price-recovery feast enjoyed in October," said Sam Stovall of C&P Capital IQ.

Macy's quarterly report appeared to overtake sentiment. Its shares plunged 14 per cent after it reported quarterly revenues fell 5.2 per cent and it cut its full-year earnings forecast by 10 per cent. Macy's said both US and international shoppers had been cutting back spending.

Other retailers were hit in the wake: Target lost 3.0 per cent, Wal-Mart 1.9 per cent, and Nordstrom 3.7 per cent.

Oil companies sank on a three per cent fall in oil prices: ExxonMobil gave up 0.9 per cent, Chevron 1.1 per cent and ConocoPhillips 2.2 per cent.

The long-awaited confirmation of Anheuser-Busch InBev's takeover of rival SABMiller, at a US$121 billion price tag, pushed AB InBev shares up 2.8 per cent and SABMiller's, traded in London, up 1.9 per cent.

Meanwhile, Molson Coors Brewing, which will take full control of MillerCoors for US$12 billion as part of the larger deal, surged 4.4 per cent.

China's "Singles Day" annual online sales extravaganza broke new records, but that did not pay off for shareholders of two of the key e-tailing giants involved: Alibaba fell 1.9 per cent and lost 1.1 per cent.