Close Update: Stock Indexes Retreat as US Oil Drops Below $40, Hits Energy Shares

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The main stock indexes posted declines in Wednesday's regular session as tumbling oil prices sent energy shares down and mining companies retreated on lower prices for metals.

All but two of the S&P 500's 10 sector indexes -- utilities and consumer staples -- were lower, with the energy grouping leading the losses with a 2.1% fall. Materials, which includes mining firms, declined 1.2% by the close.

It was a down day from the opening bell for the indexes with oil heading south through the session. West Texas Intermediate, the main US crude variety, fell almost 4% to $39.80 a barrel as commercial crude oil inventories swelled by 9.4 million barrels to 532.5 million in the week ended March 18, according to the Energy Information Administration, the official data source for US oil stockpiles.

The figure topped the American Petroleum Institute's forecast for an 8.8 million barrel increase and marks one of the largest weekly gains recorded in the year to date.

Hawkish comments by Fed officials also underlined market sentiment, with St Louis Fed President James Bullard raising the possibility for a 25 basis-point increase next month, echoing similar sentiments made by Richmond Fed President Jeffrey Lacker, Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart and San Francisco Fed President John Williams on Tuesday.

In other economic news, U.S. new home sales beat estimates with a 2% rise to 512,000 in February after net upward revisions that left a 12% five-month climb from a 10-month low of 457,000 in September, though sales remain 6.1% below last February's 545,000 cycle high.

Here's where the markets stood at the close:


Dow Jones Industrial Index was down 79.98 points (-0.45%)

S&P 500 was down 13.09 points (-0.64%)

Nasdaq Composite Index was down 52.80 (-1.1%)


FTSE 100 was up 0.1%

Nikkei 225 was down 0.28%

Hang Seng Index was down 0.25%

Shanghai China Composite Index was up 0.35%


(+) GBSN (+93.64%) Gets FDA Ok for Shiga Toxin direct test

(+) CPXX (+24.68%) Priced 4 million shares at 5.1% discount

(+) POM (+26.79%) Public Service Commission of the District of Columbia okays $6.8 billion merger with Exelon

(+) VA (+13.34%) Reportedly considering sale

(+) CERU (+11.9%) Reported successful results from CRLX-101 study


(-) SUNE (-14.77%) In talks with creditors to fund a debtor-in-possession financing facility

(-) SDRL (-9.78%) Agrees to reduced day rate on current drillship contract to secure 18 month extension

(-) CDE (-9.48%) Downgraded to sell at Deutsche Securities

(-) NEM (-8.8%) Gold falls 2.2%

(-) NKE (-3.78%) Barclays cuts price target to $75 from $150 while reiterating overweight rating

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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