Stocks fell on Thursday as new comments from the Federal Reserve chairman dashed investors' hopes for the chance of further stimulus and tech shares pushed the Nasdaq down 1 percent.
During a second day of testimony about the economy, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke reiterated that the U.S. central bank would be ready to inject more money should the economy get worse. But he told a Senate committee that the time had not come yet and noted inflation had picked up since late 2010.
Stocks had climbed on Wednesday as investors took Bernanke's remarks before a House panel as signaling the possibility of more stimulus for the economy if the outlook worsens. The central bank's most recent stimulative program contributed to strong equity gains since September.
Bernanke has backed off considerably from what might have been more stimulus, and that made yesterday's rally like eating sugar for lunch: Nothing more than a short burst of energy, said Kent Engelke, chief economic strategist at Capitol Securities Management in Richmond, Virginia.
The market had started off higher on positive JPMorgan results and a report showing new claims for U.S. jobless benefits fell slightly last week, but those gains melted away as Bernanke spoke.
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> was down 64.37 points, or 0.52 percent, at 12,427.24. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> was down 9.99 points, or 0.76 percent, at 1,307.73. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> was down 37.65 points, or 1.34 percent, at 2,759.27.
Technology stocks were Thursday's top decliners, continuing their losing streak for a second day. The Merrill Lynch Semiconductor HOLDRS Trust
JPMorgan Chase & Co
Worries about a deadlocked debate over U.S. budget cuts and raising the debt ceiling further soured investor sentiment.
In Thursday's appearance before the Senate Banking Committee, Bernanke warned that overzealous cuts to government spending in the short term could derail an already fragile recovery. He also said a U.S. debt default may wreak financial havoc, though equities have generally taken the congressional wranging over the debt ceiling in stride.
There could be further volatility -- which is code for going down -- as we near the deadline, but the market thinks the debt ceiling will be raised, Engelke said. If it didn't, we'd be down 5,000 points right now.
Moody's announced late on Wednesday that it might cut the United States' prized triple-A credit rating. Moody's cited the increasing risk that Congress would not raise its $14.3 trillion debt ceiling in time to avert a default, which investors and experts say could roil financial markets.
Marriott International Inc
(Reporting by Ryan Vlastelica; Editing by Jan Paschal)