North American stocks ignored an upbeat reading on U.S. jobless claims, extending a losing streak to six straight days as the outlook over the second-quarter earnings season continues to weigh on sentiment.
The Dow Jones industrial average closed at 12,573.27, down 31.26 points, or 0.3 per cent. The broader S&P 500 closed at 1,334.76, down 6.69 points, or 0.5 per cent. In Canada, the S&P/TSX composite index closed at 11,425.47, down 119.17 points, or 1 per cent.
The declines coincide with one of the few bright economic reports in recent weeks: U.S. initial jobless claims for the period ended last week fell to 350,000, marking the lowest level since 2008. Yet economists were quick to point out that the decline is likely due to a technical quirk, and not necessarily reflecting an improvement in the employment landscape.
Meanwhile, the second-quarter earnings season remains a big weight on the stock market, following a number of disappointing reports so far and slashed estimates from managers and analysts. On Thursday, Bank of America strategists cut their estimate for S&P 500 earnings for this year and next, arguing that analyst estimates were still too high.
The stock market declines follow Wednesday's release of the Federal Reserve minutes from its last monetary policy meeting, in June, leading to some concern among investors that the central bank is not yet close to providing aggressive stimulus to give the economy a boost.
In Europe, stocks also declined: Germany's DAX index fell 0.5 per cent and the U.K.'s FTSE 100 fell 1 per cent.
Commodites were mixed. Crude oil rose to $86.08 (U.S.) a barrel, up 27 cents. Gold fell to $1,565.30 an ounce, down $10.40. Yet, Canadian commodity producers were among the biggest drags on the TSX: Suncor Energy Inc. and Barrick Gold Corp. fell 1.4 per cent each.
Procter & Gamble rose 3.8 per cent after a report suggested that activist hedge fund manager Bill Ackman had taken a position in the giant consumer products company.