Stocks moved sharply lower at the start of trading on Wednesday, with the major averages all moving firmly into negative territory after ending the previous session mixed. Disappointing retail sales contributed to the initial weakness.

Before the start of trading, the Commerce Department released a report showing that retail sales fell 0.4 percent in April following a revised 1.3 percent decrease in March. The second consecutive monthly decrease offset recent optimism about the outlook for consumer spending.

Banking stocks are helping to lead the way lower, as traders continue to cash in on recent strength in the sector amid concerns about the economic outlook. Significant weakness has also emerged in the steel, housing, and transportation sectors.

The major averages have seen some further downside in the past few minutes, pulling back to new lows for the young session. The Dow is currently down 137.55 at 8,331.56, the Nasdaq is down 22.09 at 1,693.83 and the S&P 500 is down 16.42 at 891.93.

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