NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stocks fell for a fourth straight day Thursday, adding to big losses the day before, as energy companies dragged down the broader market. Investors also worked through a report that showed fewer Americans applied for unemployment benefits.
KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones industrial average lost 68 points, or 0.4 percent, to 16,734 as of 11:09 a.m. Eastern. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell lost 10 points, or 0.5 percent, to 1,936 and the Nasdaq composite lost 29 points, or 0.7 percent, to 4,393.
OIL WEAKNESS: Oil continued on its multi-week slide Thursday, briefly falling below $90 a barrel, after OPEC announced it would keep oil production at its current levels, despite a weakening global economy and a glut in world oil supplies. In morning trading, benchmark U.S. crude oil was down 64 cents to $90.11 a barrel in New York. Brent crude oil, which is used internationally to price oil, fell $1.59 to $92.57 a barrel.
Lower oil prices are by and large good for the average U.S. consumer because it translates into lower gas prices. But lower oil prices hurt the profitability of energy companies, which make up a large part of the U.S. stock market.
Energy companies Nabors Industries, Chesapeake Energy and Halliburton were all down 3 to 4 percent each.
TOUGH WEEK: The S&P 500 and Dow are each down roughly 2.2 percent this week, putting them on course for their worst week since the beginning of August.
US DATA: Wall Street had bit of positive economic news to work through Thursday. The number people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits dropped 8,000 last week to 287,000, the lowest level in more than eight years. Overall, 2.3 million people are receiving unemployment benefits, the fewest since June 2006.
Investors are waiting for the closely watched monthly jobs report, released Friday by the Labor Department. Economists expect U.S. employers added 215,000 workers in September and the unemployment rate remained at its current level of 6.1 percent.
EBOLA: Airline stocks were making a modest recovery after sliding on Wednesday. American Airlines, United Continental, and Delta were all up 2 percent or more. Airline stocks got beaten down yesterday on fears that the news of the first diagnosed case of Ebola in the U.S. might curtail demand for travel.
ANALYST'S TAKE: "Confirmation of a case of Ebola in the U.S. has joined a growing list of bad news stories with geo-political tensions in Ukraine and Hong Kong, and growth concerns around China and Europe sapping risk appetite," said Niall King of CMC Markets in a commentary.
EUROPEAN CENTRAL BANK: Draghi said Thursday that the ECB would keep interest rates in the eurozone at their record-low levels and the bank would start a new bond-buying program to help boost economic demand. Draghi said the ECB remains willing to do more if needed, but suggested its current stimulus programs should first be given a chance to have an impact on the economy.
The ECB's programs are similar to programs the Federal Reserve tried a few years ago that were ultimately successful in helping the U.S. economy recover from the 2008 financial crisis and Great Recession. The Fed is currently winding down those programs.
SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: DirecTV rose 90 cents, or 1 percent, to $87.48 after the company said it had reached an agreement with the NFL to continue to carry Sunday afternoon games.