Dow Extends Losing Streak, Nasdaq Slides

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The Nasdaq led the major market averages lower, while the Dow fell for the sixth-straight session, amid continued concerns over the pace of the economic recovery.

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Today's Markets

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 21.9 points, or 0.18%, to 12,049, the S&P 500 was down 5.4 points, or 0.42%, to 1,280 and the Nasdaq Composite slid 26.2 points, or 0.97%, to 2,675. The FOX 50 was off 0.76 point to 897.

The Fed's beige book did little to brighten Wall Street's gloomy sentiment on the state of the U.S. economic recovery.  Businesses largely saw the economy expanding in the Fed's 12 districts, but businesses were less optimistic than they had been in the prior report.

The blue chips are now down for the sixth-straight session for the first time since July 2010.  The broad S&P 500, which is more closely watched by traders, is on its longest losing streak in nearly two years. Both indices have fallen more than 4% during the slump.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernankes assessment that the economy is growing "somewhat slow than expected," made in a late-session speech Tuesday, added to economic concerns.

As many market participants widely predicted, the Fed chief suggested the central bank wouldn't tighten its very accommodative monetary policy stance, but Bernanke also didn't hint at any further quantitative easing once QE2 ends this month.

The "uncertainty" created by Bernanke's remarks weighed heavily on traders' sentiment, according to Will Hedden, a sales trader at IG Index, a U.K.-based trading firm. Indeed, many European market averages fell close to 1% on the day.

"Weve seen a drag here on the Bernanke comments," he said, noting more easing seems increasingly unlikely despite a slowdown in the pace of economic recovery. "If there is no more quantitative easing, it is going to have a major speculative impact on the market."

Oil prices flipped sharply into the green after the Organization of Petroleum Countries decided to keep its output steady at current levels. The cartel that controls the majority of the world's oil said it was "unable to reach consensus" on a production hike at its meeting in Vienna and kept the option open for a meeting in the next three months. Some analysts expected OPEC to raise production amid high prices.

Energy stocks such as ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM) eked out the most gains on the day.

A report on inventories from the Energy Department was mixed.  Crude stocks slipped by 4.9 million barrels to 369 million, a much bigger draw than the 300,000 analysts predicted.  However, gasoline stocks were up 2.2 million barrels to 214 million, a sharper increase than forecast.

Light, sweet crude gained $1.65, or 1.7%, to $100.74 a barrel.  Wholesale RBOB gasoline down a penny, or 0.44%, to $2.98 a gallon.

In earnings news, Ciena (CIEN: 19.87, -4.34, -17.93%) posted a larger-than-expected fiscal second-quarter loss of $62.8 million, or 66 cents a share.  The networking equipment maker also forecast third-quarter revenue between $435 and $455 million, short of expectations of $456 million. Shares tumbled more than 10% on the news.

Consumer gas prices continue inching lower.  A gallon of regular gasoline cost $3.75 on average nationwide, down from $3.78 last week, but still well higher than the $2.72 drivers paid last year.

The dollar recently climbed 0.33% against a basket of world currencies, and the euro slipped 0.78% against the greenback.

In metals, gold was down $5.30, or 0.34%, to $1,539 a troy ounce. Silver tumbled 43 cents, or 1.2%, to $36.62 a troy ounce.

Corporate News

Target (NYSE:TGT) upped its dividend by a nickel to 30 cents a share.

Caterpillar (CAT: 98.08, -1.80, -1.80%) hiked its dividend by 2 cents to 46 cents a share and reaffirmed its 2011 earnings and revenue guidance.

McDonald's (MCD: 81.14, 0.00, 0.00%) posted a weaker-than-expected 2.4% increase in U.S. same-store-sales in May, but saw growth of 3.1% overseas.

BJ's Wholesale Club (BJ: 48.63, +0.93, +1.95%) got a boost on a report from the New York Post that private equity firms are mulling a joint takeover offer worth roughly $2.8 billion.

Paladin Labs acquired the rights to market Somaxon Pharmaceuticals' (SOMX: 2.27, -0.03, -1.38%) insomnia drug Silenor in Canada, South America and Africa in a deal worth $5.5 million.

Foreign Markets

The English FTSE 100 was down 0.98% to 5,807, the French CAC 40 was off 0.83% to 3,840 and the German DAX dropped 0.68% to 7,055.

In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 edged 0.07% higher to 9,449 and the Chinese Hang Seng dipped 0.91% to 22.662.

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