Pullback by S&P 500, Dow continues for a sixth day

NEW YORK – U.S. stocks matched their longest losing streak this year as investors fretted Thursday over a dicey global climate, corporate forecasts and insufficient fiscal policy here and in Europe.

“All eyes are on Washington to offer up a credible program soon to be helpful on a number of fronts. And all eyes are on Europe to do basically the same thing locally,” said Jim Russell, chief equity strategist for U.S. Bank Wealth Management.

“The market continues to wrestle with economic data that aren’t strong enough for a sustainable recovery but not weak enough for additional Fed stimulus,” said Timothy McCandless, senior equity analyst at Bel Air Investment Advisors.

After a 112-point drop and brief forays into positive terrain, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 12,573.27, off 31.26 points, or 0.3 percent.

Leading the recovery among the blue chips, Merck & Co. Inc. rose 4.1 percent after the company said it was halting the trial of a drug to prevent bond fractures in women with osteoporosis because it was shown to be so effective.

Also boosting the Dow, Procter & Gamble Co. gained 3.8 percent after the Federal Trade Commission said it approved a deal between the consumer-products company and Pershing Square Capital Management LP.

The S&P 500 Index shed 6.69 points, or 0.5 percent, to 1,334.76, with technology and financials hardest-hit and health care and utilities the best performing among its 10 sectors.

The pullback marks a sixth day of losses for the Dow and S&P 500, along with a fifth down day for the Nasdaq Composite Index, which lost 21.79 points, or 0.8 percent, at 2,866.19.

Oil prices edge higher after U.S. adds sanctions on Iran

NEW YORK – Fears of violence in the Persian Gulf escalated Thursday, pushing the price of oil higher.

The Obama administration slapped Iran with more sanctions aimed at stifling its nuclear program. Traders, who worry that the sanctions will eventually lead to a military conflict in the gulf, responded by buying oil.

“This just puts the risk back out there,” said Phil Flynn, an oil analyst with Price Futures Group.

Oil prices, which had been down all day, jumped after the sanctions were announced. Benchmark U.S. crude added 27 cents to end at $86.08 per barrel in New York. Brent crude, which sets the price for imported oil, added 84 cents to finish at $101.07 per barrel in London.

Yahoo’s interim CEO hears impatience of shareholders

SAN FRANCISCO – Yahoo’s restless shareholders let interim CEO Ross Levinsohn know that they won’t give him much time to fix the troubled company if he gets the job on a permanent basis.

Levinsohn faced skeptical questioning at Yahoo’s annual shareholders meeting Thursday as he tried to convince investors that the embattled Internet company will rebound from years of financial malaise and internal turmoil.

The foibles have depressed Yahoo’s stock as the company struggled to find a leader who could come up with a strategy to reverse a decline exacerbated by the success of Internet search leader Google Inc. and social networking leader Facebook Inc.

— From news service reports