Wall Street Ends Lower on ECB Uncertainty

Markets Reuters

U.S. stocks ended slightly lower on Thursday after European Central Bank President Mario Draghi brushed off pressure for more immediate monetary policy action but said the issue would be addressed early next year.

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The day's losses were slight but broad, with seven of the ten primary S&P 500 sectors ending in negative territory and no sector up more than 0.3 percent.

Draghi said the ECB would reassess the impact of its stimulus early in 2015 and take further action if necessary, but didn't mention a specific timeline.

The S&P 500 fell as much as 0.6 percent before rebounding and briefly turned positive. The Dow had touched an intraday record.

"I wasn't expecting much from the ECB, which doesn't want to paint itself into a corner, but eventually we'll need to see action, not just words," said Matt Lloyd, chief investment strategist at Advisors Asset Management in Monument, Colorado.

The ECB met under growing pressure to prevent the bloc's economy from entering recession. The bank has already cut borrowing costs to record lows, given cheap loans to banks, and started buying debt to kick-start lending and bolster growth.

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"We expect more stimulus will eventually happen, and it will really help the European economy," said Lloyd, who helps oversee $16 billion in assets. "We're very bullish on Europe going into next year."

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 12.52 points, or 0.07 percent, to 17,900.1, the S&P 500 lost 2.41 points, or 0.12 percent, to 2,071.92 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 5.04 points, or 0.11 percent, to 4,769.44.

The day's losses were concentrated in energy shares, where the S&P Energy sector lost 0.8 percent alongside a 1 percent drop in the price of crude oil. ConocoPhillips fell 2.1 percent to $69.31 while Chevron Corp was off 1.3 percent at $112.28.

The moves follow three days of gains, when the group advanced 3.2 percent.

Microsoft Corp rose 1.6 percent to $48.84, limiting the decline in all three major indexes. Earlier, Barnes & Noble Inc struck a deal to buy Microsoft's stake in Nook Media LLC in a deal valued at $125 million. Shares of Barnes & Noble fell 5.4 percent to $21.03.

Investors are looking ahead to the government's non-farm payrolls report for November, due before the market opens on Friday. Expectations are that the U.S. economy created 230,000 jobs last month.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE 1,957 to 1,117, for a 1.75-to-1 ratio; on the Nasdaq, 1,625 issues fell and 1,068 advanced for a 1.52-to-1 ratio favoring decliners.

The S&P 500 was posting 102 new 52-week highs and 8 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite was recording 133 new highs and 89 new lows.

About 6.02 billion shares traded on all U.S. platforms, according to BATS exchange data.

(By Ryan Vlastelica; Editing by Nick Zieminski)