NEW YORK – Stocks fell Thursday as investors refrained from taking big stakes ahead of technology bellwether Intel Corp.'s (INTC) financial forecast and the government's employment report for May.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc.(WMT) was a bright spot on the blue-chip Dow index after the retailer reported higher sales in May at U.S. stores open at least a year.
The Dow Jones industrial average (search) fell 67.06 points, or 0.65 percent, to 10,195.91. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 Index (search) lost 8.35 points, or 0.74 percent, to 1,116.64. The Nasdaq Composite Index (search) dropped 28.72 points, or 1.44 percent, to 1,960.26.
After stock trading ended, Intel, the world's largest computer chip maker, sounded a positive note when it narrowed the range of its revenue forecast for the second quarter to the upper end of that range, citing better-than-expected performance in its communications business.
Intel's shares ended down 60 cents, or 2.1 percent, at $27.41 in the regular session, reflecting investors' fears that the company's announcement might miss expectations.
"In technology lately, unless you can surprise to the upside, it's seen as negative," said Rick Meckler, president of investment firm LibertyView Capital Management.
But after the market's close, Intel's shares rose to $27.92 on the INET electronic brokerage system in response to the updated forecast.
The Labor Department (search) is due to release May's employment report early on Friday, and economists expect it to show employers added fewer new workers to payrolls last month than in the prior two months, but they still expect a solid increase.
"Everyone is waiting for the jobs report tomorrow," said Edgar Peters, chief investment officer at Boston-based PanAgora Asset Management Inc. "There just isn't a whole lot to get excited about at the moment."
The price of oil slipped close to $39 a barrel, but worries over energy prices continued to dominate even after OPEC reached an informal deal to increase oil output by 8 percent.
OPEC agreed to raise the target by an additional 500,000 barrels a day in August if necessary, oil ministers said after meeting in Lebanon on Thursday. But with several of OPEC's 11 members already close to their output limits, some analysts are concerned the group may not be able to pump enough oil to dent prices significantly.
"The two major forces in the market today are OPEC and what they had to say, and Intel, and the fears of what they might say. Those are the bookends," said Arthur Hogan, chief market analyst at Jefferies & Co.
A better-than-expected report from the Labor Department (search) on the productivity of America's workers during the first three months of the year wasn't enough to stir buyers. Labor costs also moved up, a worrisome factor that could pressure profit margins if it becomes a trend.
Many of the nation's retailers reported strong monthly sales — reassuring after consumers pulled back in April amid rising energy costs. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) gained 25 cents to $56.60 after announcing a 5.9 percent increase in May sales.
Sears, Roebuck and Co. (S), however, reported a bigger than expected drop in sales. Its share price declined $1 to $37.13.
Best Buy Co. Inc. (BBY) on Thursday reported that strong purchases of DVD movies, CDs and digital TVs boosted quarterly same-store sales, but growth fell short of Wall Street's expectations, driving its stock down 2.7 percent, or $1.46, to $52.01.
Trading was fairly light Thursday, with 1.23 billion shares changing hands on the New York Stock Exchange, below the 1.4 billion daily average for last year. About 1.48 billion shares were traded on Nasdaq, below the 1.69 billion daily average last year.
Decliners outnumbered advancers on the NYSE by almost 3 to 1, and by more than 2 to 1 on Nasdaq.
The Russell 2000 index, which tracks smaller company stocks, closed down 11.12, or 1.9 percent, at 562.44.
Overseas, Japan's Nikkei stock average finished 1.9 percent lower. In Europe, France's CAC-40 closed up 0.2 percent, Britain's FTSE 100 added 0.3 percent and Germany's DAX index was up 0.7 percent.
Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.