Stocks Slide As Oil Prices Fall

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Stocks slid Friday on weakening oil prices and signs that United States consumer demand may be weakening.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 90 points, or 0.7 percent, to 12,514 in early trading.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 10, or 0.7 percent, to 1,333. The Nasdaq composite fell 18, or 0.7 percent, to 2,804, Associated Press Reports.

Oil prices fell 2 percent, sending energy companies lower. Energy companies in the S&P 500 index fell 1 percent.

Oil prices fell $1.80 to $97 per barrel. Crude has been bouncing around the upper-$90s for most of the week as the dollar fluctuated and reports on demand for oil came in mixed.

Gap Inc. plunged 17 percent after reporting late Thursday that the cost of raw materials rose faster than expected and hurt its quarterly profit. The national clothing chain also cut its forecast for what it would earn in the full year.

Gap’s sales have been sluggish, a worrying sign for investors who are counting on shoppers to lead a recovery in consumer spending. Gap’s results pushed down other clothing companies who have been hit hard by the rising price of cotton and shoppers who are reluctant to splurge. The five worst-performing stocks in the S&P 500 Friday were retailers. Urban Outfitters Inc. fell 5 percent. Ralph Lauren Corp., Limited Brands Inc., and VF Corp. also fell.

Other retailers have also been struggling. On Thursday Big Lots Inc. fell 9 percent after news reports that it had decided not to sell itself to private equity firms.

One exception to the retailer gloom was Barnes & Noble Inc. The bookseller jumped 29 percent after announcing late Thursday that Liberty Media Corp. had offered to buy the company for $1 billion in cash.

Even as most energy stocks fell, Anadarko Petroleum Corp. jumped 4 percent on hopes that the company would owe less than expected to oil giant BP for its part in the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

BP said it would receive a $1 billion payment from MOEX, which owned a 10 percent stake in the Macondo oil well in the Gulf of Mexico. The settlement was for a smaller amount than MOEX investors feared, and suggested that Anadarko, which owned 25 percent of the well, would also pay less to BP.

BP’s stock rose 3 percent on expectations that other companies will share costs related to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Software company Salesforece.com Inc. rose 9 percent, the most of any stock in the S&P 500, after its first-quarter profit beat Wall Street expectations.