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With reports mixed, stocks fall for 6th day

NEW YORK - A few signs of growth in the U.S. economy weren't enough to halt another slide in the stock market Wednesday.

NEW YORK - A few signs of growth in the U.S. economy weren't enough to halt another slide in the stock market Wednesday.

A survey released by the Federal Reserve showed that the pace of recovery was uneven across the country. While seven of the Fed's 12 districts reported steady gains, the economy stalled in the Philadelphia, New York, Atlanta, and Chicago regions, the Fed said.

Dallas was the only region to report accelerated growth. That was largely due to the effect of higher oil prices on the region's energy industry.

The report added to concerns that have been building since mid-April that the American economy is stalling. High oil prices, bad weather, and supply-chain problems after the tsunami and nuclear disaster in Japan have dampened many investors' outlook.

Stocks had been up Tuesday but fell in late trading after Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said the U.S. economic recovery was "uneven" and "frustratingly slow," though he added that he expected growth to pick up in the second half of the year.

That has left many investors on edge.

"What Bernanke basically said was that we have to believe we're in a soft patch that will pass by itself," said Randall Warren, chief investment officer at Warren Financial Services. "That takes a lot of faith."

The Standard & Poor's 500 lost 5.38, or 0.42 percent, to 1,279.56. It was its sixth straight loss. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 21.87, or 0.18 percent, to 12,048.94. The Nasdaq composite slipped 26.18, or 0.97 percent, to 2,675.38.

Energy companies were among the few stocks to gain broadly. Oil companies such as Exxon Mobil Corp., which gained 1 percent, rose after oil settled above $100 a barrel. The jump in oil prices came after OPEC ministers made an unexpected decision to keep output at current levels. Investors had been hoping the cartel would increase output, which could have pushed down the price of crude.

Signs that U.S. supplies were tightening also pushed up oil prices. The American Petroleum Institute said late Tuesday that U.S. crude inventories fell more than expected.

Corporate news reinforced the glum outlook on the economy.

Retailer Abercrombie & Fitch Co. fell more than 5 percent after the company said it expected its second-quarter earnings to come in lower than the first quarter.

Network equipment-maker Ciena Corp. fell 16 percent after reporting a larger loss and lower revenue than analysts had expected.

And homebuilder Hovnanian Enterprises Inc. lost nearly 12 percent after it reported a large second-quarter loss late Tuesday.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 2.96 percent as investors put money into more stable assets. Yields on bonds fall when their prices rise.

Three stocks fell for every one that rose on the New York Stock Exchange. Consolidated volume was 4.1 billion shares.