S&P 500 in third straight drop, J.C. Penney off late

Tue May 15, 2012 5:26pm EDT
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By Chuck Mikolajczak

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Stocks fell for the eighth day in the past 10 on Tuesday as uncertainty stemming from the political stalemate in Greece gave investors another reason to be cautious and sellers came out in force late in the session.

The S&P 500 fell for the third straight session as attempts to form a government in Greece fell apart, raising the possibility of a rejection of the bailout terms spelled out by the European Union for the fiscally troubled nation.

After holding near the unchanged mark for much of the session, stocks moved lower in the absence of positive news to turn the tide of negative sentiment.

"Those who are looking for a little bit of a bounce off the last eight trading sessions lost their nerve because there is really nothing out there to indicate the broader story has changed," said Peter Kenny, managing director at Knight Capital in Jersey City, New Jersey.

The concerns about upheaval in the euro zone and its effect on the global economy weighed on energy and materials stocks, with U.S. crude down for the third straight day. The S&P energy index .GSPE and the S&P materials index .GSPM each dropped 1.5 percent.

Quarterly results helped boost retailers TJX (TJX.N: Quote), up 6.9 percent at $42.45, and Dick's Sporting Goods (DKS.N: Quote), up 5.9 percent at $50.05.

U.S. retail sales rose 0.1 percent in April, slightly below expectations. However, details in the Commerce Department's report indicating underlying strength in demand and a rebound in manufacturing activity in New York State calmed concerns that the economy was stalling.

The declines on Tuesday pushed the S&P 500 down more than 6 percent from its early April high, leaving some investors optimistic that the pullback may be nearing an end as stock prices become more attractive.   Continued...

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange May 7, 2012. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid