NEW YORK -

U.S. stocks fell Wednesday for the third trading day in a row. Disappointing holiday sales weighed heavy on retail companies, and the unwelcome "fiscal cliff" package of higher taxes and lower government spending loomed nearer.

The Dow Jones industrial average slipped 24.49 points to 13,114.59. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 6.83 to 1,419.83 and the Nasdaq composite lost 22.44 to 2,990.16.

Major U.S. retailers, including Abercrombie & Fitch, Sears Holdings, Urban Outfitters, Limited Brands, Nike and Gap were all down. Handbag maker Coach, a bellwether of the luxury market, plummeted $3.39 to $54.13. It lost nearly 6 percent of its value, more than any other company in the S&P 500.

Right behind it was online retailer Amazon.com, which helps analysts get a read on the entire retail market. It lost nearly 4 percent, falling $9.99 to $248.63.

The retail numbers are also a sign that despite scattered hints of an improving economy, including a report Wednesday about rising home prices, many consumers remain uneasy about their prospects.

"Consumers just aren't confident," said Jeff Sica, president and chief investment officer of SICA Wealth Management in Morristown, N.J. "They don't feel a sense of security that they're going to be able to maintain their job or their income or their savings."

- Associated Press