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Stocks Battered on Down Day

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Major U.S. equity indices closed lower Thursday after European Central Bank President Mario Draghi warned of risks to the eurozone economy. In addition, U.S. economic data came in weaker than expected.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was off 42 points, or 0.3%, to 13,944.

Breadth was deeply negative as decliners outpaced gainers 24 to six. The biggest decliners were Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), Caterpillar (CAT), Pfizer (PFE) and Exxon Mobil (XOM).

Top advancers on the Dow were Coca-Cola (KO), American Express (AXP), Boeing (BA) and United Technologies (UTX).

Boeing said it would propose battery design changes to minimize fire hazards for its grounded 787 Dreamliner, according to a Wall Street Journal article. The company said it hopes its embattled plane would begin to fly as soon as March. Boeing shares were up 1.5%.

Volumes totaled 3.56 billion on the Big Board and 1.95 billion on the Nasdaq. Losers led winners by a 1.3-to-1 ratio on the New York Stock Exchange and a 1.6-to-1 ratio on the tech-heavy index.

The S&P 500 lost 3 points, or 0.2%, to 1,509. The Nasdaq was shed 3 points, or 0.1%, to 3,165.

"[I] clearly think we're in a bull market, and part of being in a bull market is we're going to have consolidation and pullbacks," said Mike Boyle, portfolio manager at Advisors Asset Management. "We've been on a phenomenal run since about 10 days after the [2012] election ... and our study of markets says that about every 90 days during a bull market you need to have, you should have, history says you do have a 3% to 5% pullback."

The Labor Department reported nonfarm business productivity dipped 2% in the fourth quarter. The number was higher than the 1.3% decrease a consensus among economists had expected. The report comes a week after a surprise 0.1% contraction in gross domestic product last Wednesday.

The Labor Department said initial jobless claims for the week of Jan. 26 came in at 366,000, down 5,000 from the prior week's claims. The four-week moving average was 350,000, down 2,250 from the previous tally. Economists expected claims to print at about 360,000.

Investors have continued to monitor initial jobless claims and other labor market indicators as the Federal Reserve has closely pegged its policy of low interest rates to a target 6.5% unemployment rate. Anything that hits that threshold, the central bank has said, would trigger the Fed to begin raising interest rates. It has also said it would make such a move if inflation rose to at least 2.5%.

Chicago Fed Reserve President Charles Evans spoke Thursday morning in an interview with CNBC and said that quantitative easing may need to continue for the whole year. Evans said he was optimistic that economic momentum would pick up in 2013. Evans has been one of the biggest policy-making supporters for the Fed's unemployment rate target. His comments could also send waves through markets as traders continue to determine whether the Fed will stick with its highly accommodative monetary policy for the long term.

Same-store sales jumped 5%, according to Thomson Reuters. A consensus among analysts were expecting a 3.1% rise. Among the biggest winners were Macy's (M), Kohl's (KSS) and Nordstrom (JWN).

The FTSE 100 in London dropped 1.1% on Thursday, while the DAX in Germany closed up 0.1%.

The Nikkei in Japan dropped 0.9% overnight, a day after the index posted its biggest intraday gain in two years. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong slipped 0.3%.

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