October 2, 2014 / 4:58 PM / 3 years ago

US STOCKS-Wall St falls for a 4th day; energy shares, ECB weigh

NEW YORK, Oct 2 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were down at midday on Thursday, putting the S&P 500 on track for a fourth session of losses, as energy shares dropped and the ECB failed to ease worries about the euro zone’s recovery.

In a post-meeting news conference, European Central Bank President Mario Draghi gave no indication of an imminent stimulus program through the purchase of sovereign bonds.

Stocks extended Wednesday’s sharp decline, with the S&P 500 falling below its 150-day moving average for the first time since November 2012, even after a positive reading on the labor market.

If the S&P 500 ends lower, it would mark its first four-day string of declines since December.

On Wednesday, indexes fell sharply after a patient was diagnosed with Ebola in the United States.

Investors were continuing to watch small-caps after the Russell 2000 index on Wednesday closed in correction territory. The Russell 2000 was down 0.4 percent on Thursday.

“It’s been an ugly few days. It’s been a confluence of negativity weighing on sentiment, and that’s caused sellers to be more aggressive and buyers to be more cautious,” said Michael James, managing director of equity trading at Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles.

“When you look at the magnitude of the decline in the Russell index, which started a couple of weeks ago ... that’s having a ripple effect across portfolios in general and buyers are just very cautious. If you’re a short seller, it’s almost like a free-fire zone to continue shorting stocks.”

Oil prices fell for the third straight session, with Brent hitting its lowest level since June 2012.

The S&P energy index was down 1.5 percent and the energy index was in negative territory for the year. Among the most active names, Halliburton Co shares were down 3.6 percent.

The Dow Jones industrial average was falling 72.93 points, or 0.43 percent, to 16,731.78, the S&P 500 was losing 12.17 points, or 0.63 percent, to 1,933.99 and the Nasdaq Composite was dropping 33.43 points, or 0.76 percent, to 4,388.65.

Friday will bring the September jobs report, expected to show 215,000 jobs added. The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell last week, a sign the labor market may be tightening.

Declining issues were outnumbering advancing ones on the NYSE by 2,176 to 805, for a 2.70-to-1 ratio on the downside; on the Nasdaq, 1,559 issues were falling and 1,034 advancing for a 1.51-to-1 ratio favoring decliners.

The benchmark S&P 500 index was posting 3 new 52-week highs and 24 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite was recording 13 new highs and 145 new lows. (Editing by Bernadette Baum and Nick Zieminski)

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