U.S. stocks staggered to the end of a dismal second quarter on Wednesday in another low volume session as investors found little reason to take on risk after conflicting economic data.
Wednesday's session ended like many during the quarter, with a late-day selloff as buying interest waned and investors sold underperforming stocks in the worst quarter since the market meltdown triggered by the collapse of Lehman Brothers.
Just pushing all the garbage off the side of the ship, Peter Kenny, managing director at Knight Equity Markets in Jersey City, New Jersey, said of the late sell-off.
If there was more of a lift, they would have been able to sell these things a little higher up, and there wouldn't have been this kind of end-of-day pressure.
The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> dropped 96.28 points, or 0.98 percent, to 9,774.02. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> slid 10.53 points, or 1.01 percent, to 1,030.71. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> fell 25.94 points, or 1.21 percent, to 2,109.24.
For the quarter the S&P lost 12 percent, the Dow fell 10 percent and the Nasdaq dropped 12 percent as worry about sovereign debt and the sustainability of the U.S. economic recovery caused investors to pull back from a peak hit in late April.
For a graphic see http://link.reuters.com/hyd25m
Leveraged short ETFs, widely blamed for a portion of Tuesday's losses, were also cited for the late sell-off as managers piled on bets the market will fall. Those funds shorted the market to keep up with customer demand.
The S&P fell below the 1040 level that it had held since February, breaking out to the downside from what chartists call a very bearish head and shoulders price pattern and suggesting a major fall could come in the next five months.
Technology shares were among the hardest hit, with Google Inc off 2.1 percent to $444.95 and Apple Inc down 1.8 percent to $251.53.
Data on Wednesday showed Midwest business activity grew slightly more than expected in June, but a private-sector report showed weakness in employment, a critical part of the economic recovery. For details, see [ID:nN30395701]
The PHLX Oil Services Sector index <.OSX> was among the few bright spots, inching up 0.02 percent, aided by a 1.8 percent gain in Baker Hughes Inc to $41.57. The index has fallen 20.3 percent for the quarter and 22.4 percent since the BP Plc oil spill.
If you want to go bottom fishing, you do it in the oil services sector. There is going to be consolidation in that group, said Cliff Draughn, president and chief investment officer at Excelsia Investment Advisors in Savannah, Georgia.
With this moratorium on offshore drilling, they are a dead business.
Even with the accelerated volume heading into the close, volume was tepid, with about 9.21 billion shares traded on the New York Stock Exchange, the American Stock Exchange and Nasdaq, slightly below last year's estimated daily average of 9.65 billion.
Declining stocks outnumbered rising ones on the NYSE by 1,907 to 1108, while on the Nasdaq, decliners beat advancers 1,699 to 959.
(Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; Additional reporting by Kevin Weir; Editing by Kenneth Barry)