Stocks bounced off the lows of the session, but ended lower, as disappointing economic news halted the market's rally and as Merck dragged down the Dow amid problems with a key blood-clotting drug.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 23.54 points, or 0.2 percent, to close at 11,731.90 after hitting a two-year high in the previous session .
Merck, Alcoa and Bank of America led blue-chips lower, while Home Depot and Verizon rose.
The S&P 500 fell 2.20 points, or 0.2 percent, to close at 1,283.76, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq fell 2.04 points, or 0.07 percent, to close at 2,735.29. The CBOE Volatility Index, widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, rose above 16.
Among key S&P sectors, materials, health care and financials fell, while consumer staples rose.
The dollar skidded against a basket of currenciesafter the jump in jobless claims was reported and as the euro gained, boosted, too, by a successful auction of Spanish bonds. Gold prices rose to $1,386.90 an ounce.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke gave an upbeat outlook for the economy , saying it should grow 3-4 percent in 2011. Bernanke's comments were made during a Small Business Forum in Washington D.C., co-sponsored by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and CNBC.Page 1 of 8 | Next Page