Also hurting the market -- another drop in the yield on 10-year Treasury notes, and a very weak report on economic growth across Europe. The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) slid 167 points, the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GPSC) fell 17, and the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) dropped 31 points.
And the Russell 2000 (^RUT), an index of small stocks that we don't follow on a day-to-day basis, briefly fell into correction territory, by which we means it had fallen 10 percent from its recent high. By comparison, the Dow and the S&P hit record highs earlier this week, while the Nasdaq is down about 7 percent from its best level of this year.
Drug and biotech stocks were active today as many companies released research reports at an annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.
Bristol-Myers (BMY) fell 6 percent on disappointment over its lung cancer drug. The stock is now in the red over the past 6 months. Incyte (INCY) dropped nearly 10 percent after it reported that its drug to treat pancreatic cancer did not show much promise in treating other cancers.
On the upside, Clovis Oncology (CLVS) jumped 16 percent after reporting success in treating some forms of lung cancer.
Separately, Eli Lilly (LLY) fell 3 percent after losing a patent case in Great Britain.
The other sector under fire today was retail, after some disappointing earnings reports.
Walmart (WMT) fell 2-1/2 percent as its numbers missed expectations. Sales have now declined for five straight quarters. It's now in negative territory over the past year. Kohl's (KSS) fell more than 3 percent as net disappointed. J.C. Penney (JCP) lost 3 percent ahead of its earnings report. And a long list of other retailers fell. Macy's (M) and Lowe's (LOW) were both down more than 1 percent, while Sears (SHLD) and Urban Outfitters (URBN) were down more than 3 percent.
What to Watch Friday:
- The Commerce Department reports housing starts for April at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time.
- The University of Michigan releases preliminary results of its May survey of consumer sentiment at 10 a.m.