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December 18, 2017
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Wall Street falls amid global growth worries

US stocks dropped today as oil prices slid and worries about the global economy resurfaced, dragging down the dollar against the yen and causing investors to flee riskier assets.

The S&P 500 posted its biggest daily percentage loss in about six weeks, while the growth worries weighed especially on interest-rate sensitive financials .SPSY, strategists said. The group fell 1.9 percent and was the biggest drag on the S&P 500.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed down 174.09 points, or 0.98 percent, to 17,541.96, the S&P 500 lost 24.75 points, or 1.2 percent, to 2,041.91 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 72.35 points, or 1.47 percent, to 4,848.37.

The dollar fell as much as 1.6 percent against the yen.

Minutes from the Federal Reserve's March meeting released on Wednesday pointed to concerns about the US central bank's limited ability to tackle a global economic slowdown.

Minutes from the European Central Bank's March policy meeting on Thursday showed that governors from around the euro zone had been told the global economic outlook had got worse.

Crude oil LCOc1 CLc1 settled lower on Thursday after data showed higher weekly inventories. The S&P energy index .SPNY was down 0.6 percent.

Adding to investor caution, first-quarter earnings kick into high gear next week, with a 7.4-percent year-over-year decline projected for S&P 500 companies, according to Thomson Reuters data. Some strategists argue the recent sharp drop in earnings forecasts could result in more positive surprises.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by 2,349 to 677, for a 3.47-to-1 ratio on the downside; on the Nasdaq, 2,063 issues fell and 751 advanced for a 2.75-to-1 ratio favoring decliners.

The S&P 500 posted seven new 52-week highs and one new low; the Nasdaq recorded 23 new highs and 23 new lows.

In Europe, equities ended lower with financial shares losing ground and stocks like Skanska and Daimler slumping after trading without the attraction of their latest dividend payouts.

European banks fell 2.2 percent amid talk of more lay-offs and cutbacks planned by Europe's major lenders as they struggle with zero rates. European Central Bank's willingness to ease monetary policy further, according to three top officials including its president, also soured sentiment.

Italian banks Unicredit, BMPS, Banco Popolare and UBI Banca fell 5.9 to 8.1 percent, with the country's benchmark FTSE MIB index hitting a one-month low and closing 2.5 percent lower.

German carmaker Daimler fell 4.8 percent, dragging the sector index down to end 2.5 percent weaker. Among other companies losing the right to the next payout were Skanska, which fell 8.7 percent, making the stock the biggest faller on the FTSEurofirst, and Pearson, which slipped 5 percent.

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 ended 0.8 percent lower after hitting a one-month low earlier in the session. The index, down 10 percent so far this year, remained on track for its fourth straight week of losses.

European Central Bank President Mario Draghi said in the central bank's annual report on Thursday that the future of the global economy remained uncertain and there were questions about Europe's ability to weather new shocks.

Healthcare stocks advanced for a second session, with the sector index rising 0.5 percent after the termination of the Pfizer-Allergan merger deal fueled talk of other consolidation activity in the sector.

Meanwhile, Japanese stocks edged up in choppy trade, snapping a seven-day losing streak as buying in defensive stocks offset weakness in exporters which lost ground on the yen's strength.

The Nikkei share average gained 0.2 percent to 15,749.84.

The broader Topix rose 0.4 percent to 1,272.64 and the JPX-Nikkei Index 400 advanced 0.5 percent to 11,484.43.

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