NEW YORK - Stocks skidded Thursday as a late drop erased the market's gains from the day before. Companies that sell oil, gold, and silver tumbled along with the prices of those commodities.
Thursday's slide marked the end of a three-day winning streak. Indexes drifted lower in the morning and fell sharply in the final minutes of trading. Energy stocks fell as the price of oil slumped again, and lower metals prices hurt mining companies.
The Dow Jones industrial average sank 253.25 points, or 1.43 percent, to 17,495.84. The Standard & Poor's 500 lost 31.18 points, or 1.5 percent, to 2,041.89. The Nasdaq composite index gave up 68.58 points, or 1.35 percent, to 5,002.55.
Energy and mining stocks have been pummeled this year as the sluggish global economy reduces demand even as supplies become more abundant. U.S. crude fell 57 cents, or 1.6 percent, to $34.95 a barrel in New York. It had not closed beneath $35 since Feb. 18, 2009, and traded above $60 a barrel as recently as June.
Chevron lost $2.90, or 3.1 percent, to $90.54 and Marathon Oil lost $1, or 7.3 percent, to $12.78.
Natural gas, which has fallen to 16-year lows, gave up an additional 3.5 cents, or 2 percent, to $1.755 per 1,000 cubic feet. The price of natural gas has tumbled as demand has collapsed. Thanks to the warm weather, customers have not needed much gas to heat their homes this winter. And demand from industrial customers has been weak.
Only utility stocks traded higher. Utilities have also struggled this year, but, including a tiny gain Thursday, they have risen for four days in a row and are up 4 percent over that time. Utility stocks are seen as steady performers that pay regular dividends, and some investors think payments are going to increase. Duke Energy rose 47 cents to $70.50 and Ameren Corp. gained $1.03, or 2.4 percent, to $44.03.
The shipping company FedEx said its quarterly profit grew as online shopping increased and costs in its express-delivery business came down. FedEx also said it thinks holiday shipments will rise by more than 12 percent from a year ago. FedEx rose $3.01, or 2 percent, to $151.84.
The streaming music company Pandora Media surged. A panel of copyright judges raised the amount that streaming companies such as Pandora have to pay to record labels, but the increase was less than many had expected. Pandora jumped $1.82, or 13.5 percent, to $15.26.
The business software maker Oracle had its worst day in more than two years. The stock slipped after Oracle reported a smaller quarterly profit. Its revenue also fell short of analyst forecasts. The shares declined $1.98, or 5.1 percent, to $36.93.