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The Dow shed its mid-day gains, pulled down by tumbling shares of banking behemoth JPMorgan Chase.
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As of 2:40 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 14.1 points, or 0.11%, to 12842, the S&P 500 slipped 0.7 point, or 0.05%, to 1357 and the Nasdaq Composite climbed 11.1 points, or 0.38%, to 2945.
JPMorgan revealed after the close of trading that the $2 billion loss taken by its unit tasked with hedging the bank's risks may cost the firm some $800 million in the second quarter -- four times higher than the original estimate. The unexpected loss tarnishes the reputation of the biggest U.S. bank, and its chief executive, Jamie Dimon, who frequently touts the company's powerful balance sheet.
"We think the overall financial impact ... is not the main issue," analysts at Nomura wrote in a note to clients. "What really hurts is the negative impact on [JPMorgan's] reputational premium that is likely to hit the stock."
Shares of the Dow component were off some 7%, costing the blue-chip average 27 points on its own. Other big banks, including Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) and Citigroup (NYSE:C), saw their stock prices suffer as a result as well.
Consumer sentiment unexpectedly climbed in early May from April, according to a survey by Reuters and the University of Michigan. The gauge checked in at 77.8, higher than a final reading of 76.4 in April and topping estimates of a reading of 76.2. The current conditions sub-index jumped, however, the futures expectations portion fell slightly.
Separately, the Labor Department said prices at the wholesale level dipped 0.2% in April from March, compared to expectations for no change. Excluding the more volatile food and energy components, prices were up 0.2%, which was in line with expectations. The headline reading is now up 1.9% from last year, while the core number is up 2.7%.
Industrial output in China slowed down to the lowest level since March 2009 last month. The data added fuel to a growing concern that the world's second-biggest economy may be in for a so-called hard landing, which would entail a dramatic slowdown in the pace of expansion there.
Meanwhile, in Europe, Greek political parties worked to make an agreement to forge a coalition government. The talks are now in the fifth day after elections on Sunday fragmented the parliament, requiring at least three parties to sign off on a new government. Analysts say if an agreement can't be made, the country may be in for another set of elections next month.
Commodities were broadly lower. Crude oil traded in New York dipped 98 cents, or 0.98%, to $96.13 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline fell 0.31% to $3.00 a gallon.
In metals, gold dropped $11.50, or 0.72%, to $1,584 a troy ounce.
Eurozone blue chips rose 0.32%, the English FTSE 100 climbed 0.57% to 5576 and the German DAX gained 0.95% to 6580.
In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 slumped 0.63% to 8953 and the Chinese Hang Seng sold off by 1.3% to 19965.