US stocks close lower amid oil plunge, data

New York: US stocks closed lower on Friday as steep oil price decline and soft economic data weighed on equities.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 178.74 points, or 0.73 per cent, to 24,285.95. The S&P 500 decreased 17.37 points, or 0.66 per cent, to 2,632.56, Xinhua news agency reported.

The Nasdaq Composite Index erased 33.27 points, or 0.48 per cent, to 6,938.98.

Crude oil prices plunged on Friday. West Texas Intermediate crude plunged about 7 per cent to $50.60 per barrel while Brent crude traded around $59.47 per barrel, or shedding 5 per cent, in early trading, both reaching their lowest level in more than a year.

The drop sent the Energy Select Sector SPDR Fund – which tracks the S&P 500 energy sector – down nearly 3 per cent.

On the economic front, investors continued to digest the soft data that came in on Wednesday.

The consumer sentiment index hit 97.5 in November, according to the University of Michigan’s monthly survey of consumers. The figure was lower than economist estimate of 98.3 and was also down from October’s 98.6.

US weekly jobless claims rose to a more than four-month high. Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 3,000 to a seasonally adjusted 224,000 for the week ending November 17, the highest level since the end of June, said the Labor Department on Wednesday.

On Thursday, the market was closed in observation of the Thanksgiving holiday.