NEW YORK — U.S. stocks fell again Thursday, pushing indexes to lows not seen since late summer, as worries about the global economy and U.S. “fiscal cliff” displaced enthusiasm that came with upbeat economic reports.
“There are still international events going on that influence the markets,” said Paul Nolte, managing director at Dearborn Partners in Chicago, listing Greece, the European Union and China as among the issues driving investors.
The slide follows a strong sell-off on Wednesday, as investors considered the political landscape after an election that had President Barack Obama re-elected and Congress still divided, with the “fiscal cliff” of tax increases and spending cuts scheduled to take effect in January unless lawmakers reach a deficit-reduction agreement.
“What was surprising was not that Obama won, but that there was very little change in the composition of Congress,” said Nolte, who added that the continued partisan makeup in Washington has him putting the odds at better than even that “we do go off the cliff.”
The Dow industrials fell 121.41 points, or 1 percent, to 12,811.32, its lowest close since late July.
Apple Inc., the world’s most valuable company, retreated 3.6 percent, extending its plunge since its September high to 23 percent.
Finishing at its lowest level since early August, the S&P 500 index shed 17.02 points, or 1.2 percent, to 1,377.51. The Nasdaq composite lost 41.71 points, or 1.4 percent, to 2,895.58, its lowest read since late July.
The indexes headed south, clearing moderate gains, after Bloomberg News reported that European Union ministers would delay a Greek aid call for weeks.
The European Central Bank on Thursday held interest rates steady and President Mario Draghi said the economic forecast had worsened, with the central bank ready to start its bond-buying plan if governments meet the required conditions.
Stocks had been modestly higher, with the Dow Jones industrial average bouncing back after its largest drop this year, as jobless claims declined last week and the U.S. trade deficit narrowed in September.
“The trend continues to be good. It’s still supportive of a better jobs market and supportive of some of the numbers we’ve seen in the monthly jobs report,” said Nolte after the Labor Department reported applications for jobless benefits fell by 8,000 to 355,000 in the week ending Nov. 3.