Stocks struggled at Friday's opening bell after a weaker-than-expected inflation report. U.S. producer prices fell 0.5% in February, economists were expecting an increase of 0.3%. Newslook
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Stocks were sharply lower at midday Friday as oil prices took another tumble and fell below $46 a barrel after data showed stock levels continue to rise.
The major indexes were on track to post a third straight week of losses as the Dow Jones industrial average was down about 214 points, or 1.2%, Friday and the Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 1%.
Both indexes have erased the year's gains and are negative for 2015.
The Nasdaq composite index was down 0.9%.
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All 10 of the S&P 500 sectors were down with utilities, materials and energy leading the way.
After stabilizing in recent days, the price of oil renewed its downward drift Friday as U.S. benchmark crude dropped 3.5% to $45.42 a barrel.
The International Energy Agency warned Friday that the stabilization in the oil price is precarious. "The rebalancing triggered by the price collapse has yet to run its course," the agency said in a monthly report.
Factors dragging the market lower: Rising fears the Federal Reserve will begin raising interest rates soon, a surging dollar and sinking oil prices. Investors will be watching for clues from a Fed policymakers meeting next week about the possible timing of a rate hike.
In economic news released Friday:
• Wholesale prices fell for a fourth straight month in February as the producer price index dropped 0.5%. Core prices, excluding volatile food and energy costs, also fell 0.5%. Producer prices measure inflation pressures at the wholesale level, before they reach consumers.
• Consumer confidence is on the decline as the University of Michigan consumer sentiment index dropped to 91.2 in March, down from 95.4 in February. The index fell to a four-month low.
Overseas, European markets were mixed as Germany's DAX index gained 0.8% and Britain's FTSE index dropped 0.4%.
Asian stocks rose as Japan's Nikkei 225 surged 1.4% to and China's Shanghai Composite was up 0.6%. Hong Kong's Hang Seng advanced 0.3%.
U.S. stocks staged a strong rally Thursday as Wall Street halted a two-day slide and put the major indexes back into the black for 2015.