A weaker picture in the retail sector was helping to drive stocks lower and the dollar mostly higher on Wednesday. The Commerce Department said retail sales declined by 2.7% in December, more than twice the forecast amount. It was the sixth straight monthly decline for retail sales, the longest pullback on record. Sales ex-autos, the so-called core rate, declined 3.1%, the biggest drop since records began in 1992.

Stocks were just off their session lows in recent trade, with the DOW declining by 3.03%. All 30 industrials in the index were negative on the day. The broader S&P 500 was moving lower by 3.34% and the NASDAQ by 3.13%. The dollar was mostly trading in risk aversion mode, with gains of 0.14% on the euro and 0.32% on Australia's dollar. The greenback was weaker by 0.29% to the yen and by 0.58% against the pound. Crude was moving lower by 3.9% after the weekly inventory report said demand for oil was decreasing, which helped boost the greenback by 1.57% against the loonie. The February contract has now declined by 28.1% from the Jan. 06 peak on $50.07 per barrel. Gold was moving lower by 0.74% on the day as traders saw less need for an inflation hedge. Gold has declined 8.6% from the high made back on Dec. 29 on $890.60 per ounce.