Markets closed down today:
▼ Dow: -0.38 percent
▼ Nasdaq: -0.49 percent
▼ S&P: -0.00 percent
▲ Gold: up +0.55 percent to $1,577.72 an ounce
▲ Silver: up +0.73 percent to settle at $27.14
▲ Oil: +2.57 percent
Markets were down because:
The Dow closed at 12,604.53, down 48.59 points. The Standard & Poor's 500 index slipped 0.02 of a point to 1,341.45. The technology-focused Nasdaq composite index lost 14.35 points to 2,887.98.
It was the fifth straight day of losses for both the Dow and S&P. That's the worst stretch for both since a six-day losing streak that ran through May 18. With Europe still working out the details of a bailout for Spanish banks and the U.S. economy still sluggish, there's little for investors to buy stocks.
In minutes from their latest meeting released Wednesday afternoon, Federal Reserve officials said they saw a variety of threats to the U.S. economy, including a slowdown in China and a looming budget crunch in Washington. The Fed also didn't signal that new steps to stimulate the economy were on the way.
Stock investors took the news badly at first, but by the end of the day were taking it in stride. The Dow Jones industrial average dropped as many as 118 points shortly after the 2 p.m. release of the Fed's minutes. Thanks to a recovery in the last hour it was down just 48 points at the closing bell, not much different from where it was earlier.
Fed officials said the economy could struggle if Congress fails to avert tax hikes and across-the-board spending cuts scheduled for the end of the year. They also worried that Europe's debt crisis and China's slower growth would weigh on the U.S.
The current batch of U.S. corporate earnings, which started to come in this week, isn't expected to help the stock market. Financial analysts forecast that companies in the S&P 500 will report a 2 percent earnings drop in the April-through-June period compared with the year before, according to the research firm S&P Capital IQ. That would be the first fall in profits since the summer quarter of 2009.
Chevron and other energy stocks rose, following oil prices higher. The price of crude oil jumped $1.90, to $85.81 a barrel, after the government said U.S. crude supplies fell for a second week in a row, a sign that demand for energy may be increasing.
Energy stocks led the 10 industry groups within the S&P 500 index, rising 1.4 percent. Chevron gained 97 cents to $104.85 and Exxon Mobil gained $1.27 to $84.38.
In Europe, Spain's borrowing costs fell after the country imposed new sales tax hikes and spending cuts in a bid to slash nearly $80 billion from its budget over the next two and a half years. High borrowing rates and 25 percent unemployment are squeezing Spain's economy.
Europe's debt crisis has led banks and investment funds from around the world to shift their money into Treasurys. High demand for Treasurys has kept U.S. government borrowing rates low.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.