NEW YORK (Reuters) - Global stocks and the dollar fell on Wednesday as weak U.S. economic data and concerns about Europe’s long-simmering debt crisis weighed on sentiment.
Investors snapped up safe-haven assets such as gold and government debt. Oil prices eased after initially rising on U.S. government data that showed U.S. crude edged down 191,000 barrels last week for a second straight week of declines.
Shares of JPMorgan (JPM.N) rose above $35 at one point, the biggest contributor to gains in the benchmark S&P 500 early in the session. JPMorgan’s stock trimmed its gains to trade up 1.6 percent at $34.30, as no damning news came out of Chief Executive Jamie Dimon’s testimony before Congress on the firm’s multibillion-dollar trading loss.
Investors are expected to remain skittish ahead of a Greek vote on Sunday and on fears that Spain’s financing problems may spread to Italy. The question of whether Greece will remain in the euro zone after the election and the potential impact of Europe’s woes on global growth took a toll on sentiment.
“I would expect a fair amount of market volatility one way or the other,” said Michael James, senior trader at regional investment bank Wedbush Morgan in Los Angeles.
“But I don’t think the result of the election is going to be anywhere close to a resolution of the issues facing Greece or the issues facing European countries in general,” he said.
U.S. stocks traded near break-even for most of the session before falling late in the day. European stocks closed down while shares of emerging markets rose and an index of global stocks edged higher, helped by earlier gains in Asia.
The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI closed down 77.42 points, or 0.62 percent, at 12,496.38. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index .SPX fell 9.30 points, or 0.70 percent, at 1,314.88. The Nasdaq Composite Index .IXIC slid 24.46 points, or 0.86 percent, at 2,818.61.
In Europe, the FTSEurofirst 300 index .FTEU3 of top regional companies closed down 0.3 percent at 990.18.
MSCI’s all-country world equity index .MIWD00000PUS fell 0.1 percent to 301.08.
Wall Street opened lower after a report showed demand for building materials sagged and falling gasoline prices crimped receipts at service stations in May, dragging retail sales down 0.2 percent, the Commerce Department said.
April retail sales were revised to show a 0.2 percent drop instead of the previously reported 0.1 percent gain. Excluding the surge in auto sales, sales fell 0.4 percent, the biggest decline in two years.
The U.S. Labor Department said its producer price index dropped 1.0 percent in May as energy costs slumped 4.3 percent.
Oil prices initially rebounded after a report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration that crude inventories slipped last week less than forecast, while gasoline and distillate stocks fell, offsetting expectations of a build. But U.S. crude later fell and settled lower.
Brent crude settled down 1 cent at $97.13 a barrel, and U.S. crude settled down 70 cents at $82.62 a barrel.
U.S. Treasuries prices erased early losses and turned higher Prices as the weak data raised expectations the Federal Reserve may embark on more bond purchases to support the economy, a move that would underpin private demand for government debt.
The benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note rose 17/32 in price to yield 1.6063 percent.
Yields on 10-year German bonds fell to 1.495 percent.
“Many now believe that the point of no return is getting nearer with the peripheral (European) economies in a somewhat irreversible dynamic, with their economies depressed and their access to capital markets shrinking,” said Lee McDarby at Investec Corporate Treasury.
The dollar fell against the yen, while the U.S. dollar index .DXY was down 0.4 percent at 82.423, and the euro was up 0.5 percent at $1.2574.
Spot gold prices were up $8.20 to $1,617.60 an ounce. U.S. COMEX gold futures for August delivery settled up $5.60 at $1,619.40 an ounce.