Wall Street gnawed on a muddle of economic data and corporate earnings news Thursday, then sent stock indexes lower for a second day.
Disappointing April sales results from big retailers set the bleak tone early on. Costco, Macy's and Target, among others, reported sales that were weaker than analysts had predicted. Colder weather and renewed concerns about the economy weighed on shoppers.
GM shares fell 2.4 percent after the automaker said its first-quarter profit declined, mainly because of weakness in Europe.
Fears of a global financial freeze-up caused by the European debt crisis have receded, but many now worry that Europe's recession will hurt sales by American exporters such as GM and Caterpillar. Caterpillar lost 1.9 percent.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 61.98 points, or 0.5 percent, to 13,206.59. The S&P 500 dropped 10.74, or 0.8 percent, to 1,391.57. The Nasdaq composite average slid 35.55, or 1.2 percent, to 3,024.30
European stocks closed mostly lower after signs that the European Central Bank will not inject more cash into the region's fragile banking system.
The labor market has been on traders' minds all week because the government's monthly jobs report is due out Friday. The final major indicator before that announcement was positive: The number of people applying for unemployment benefits fell last week by the most in three months, to a seasonally adjusted 365,000. That pointed to fewer layoffs and a brighter outlook for hiring.
The conflicting economic indicators offered little direction for major U.S. stock indexes. They opened down, rose slightly in the first 15 minutes of trading, then turned lower. Eight of the 10 industry groups in the Standard & Poor's 500 index fell. Two rose, but barely.
The Carlyle Group, a big, politically connected private equity firm, edged higher after an initial public offering that raised $671 million. The company had priced its stock below the expected range late Wednesday. Carlyle, trading on the Nasdaq under the ticker "CG," has about $147 billion in assets under management.
Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc. plunged 47.8 percent. The maker of single-cup coffee machines and cartridges said late Wednesday that its earnings for the fiscal year ending in September will be far below its previous forecast and analysts' estimates. Green Mountain shares have lost more than three-fourths of their value since September.
Cablevision Systems Corp. dropped 7.9 percent after its first-quarter revenue fell short of analysts' expectations and profit declined sharply.
Viacom Inc., owner of MTV and Paramount Pictures, rose 3.4 percent after saying its net income rose sharply as its TV networks brought in more revenue.