Tech stocks lead a fall on Wall Street

THE Nasdaq index sank yesterday, leading US stocks lower, as investors sold recent winners in a sign of growing unease with pockets of US economic weakness.

The Dow Jones industrial average declined 47.38 points, or 0.38 per cent, to close at 12,548.37. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index dropped 8.30 points, or 0.62 per cent, to end at 1,329.47. The Nasdaq Composite Index slid 46.16 points, or 1.63 per cent, to 2,782.31.

Worries about the market’s ability to extend its recent gains have increased. The expected end to the Federal Reserve’s stimulus program next month and the recent collapse in commodity prices have made investors prone to sell more volatile stocks that have outperformed in 2011.

Tech leader Amazon.com lost five per cent, along with “high-beta” names including Priceline.com, down 3.3 per cent, and Netflix, down 3.8 per cent. Priceline is up 26 per cent since the start of the year, while Netflix is up 35 per cent.

Shares of JC Penney Inc fell 3.2 per cent after the department store operator reported a higher quarterly profit as the shares retraced some of their recent gains.

Financials helped stem the Dow’s losses, including American Express, whose shares gained 1.2 per cent to $50.07.

About 6.85bn shares were traded on the New York Stock Exchange, NYSE Amex and Nasdaq, compared with the average of 7.73bn so far in 2011.