Stocks Down for Sixth Day

U.S. stocks on Wednesday fell for a sixth straight session, as investors worried a slowing economy could deepen its retreat and wipe out this year’s gains. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 21.87 points, or 0.18%, to 12,048.94, The S&P 500 ended down 5.38 points, or 0.42%, to 1,279.56. The Nasdaq Composite fell 26.18 points, or0.97%, to 2,675.38.

For the first time this year, the economy slowed in several U.S. regions this spring. High gas prices weakened consumer spending, and the Japan crises reduced manufacturing output. All 12 of the Federal Reserve’s bank regions grew this spring. But four of the regions suffered slower growth in April and May from earlier this year, according to a Fed survey released Wednesday.

A default would have severe reverberations in global markets, a top Federal Reserve official said just hours after Fitch Ratings warned it could slash credit ratings if the government misses bond payments. St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank President James Bullard told Reuters on Wednesday “the U.S. fiscal situation, if not handled correctly, could turn into a global macro shock.

OPEC unexpectedly left its production levels unchanged on Wednesday, causing oil prices to jump, as senior officials said their meeting ended in disarray — a stunning admission for an organization that places a premium on consensus decision making. OPEC officials said that because of a policy deadlock, the group will maintain present output ceilings with the option of meeting within the next three months to consider a hike.

Oil prices climbed above $100 per barrel Wednesday. Benchmark crude for July delivery rose $1.57 to $100.66 per barrel in midday trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

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