NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Stock markets got it from all sides Thursday -- from underwhelming earnings reports and unexpected eurozone pressures to a crude oil rally that vanished as quickly as it arrived. Benchmark indexes endured a bumpy trading session but downward pressure won out in the afternoon session, leading the S&P 500 to close below its 2,000 level.
The S&P 500 closed 0.92% lower, its fifth consecutive day of losses. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.6%, and the Nasdaq slid 1.5%.
Wall Street's big banks disappointed in the fourth quarter with Bank of America (BAC) - Get Report and Citigroup (C) - Get Report just the latest to report on falling revenues and squeezed profits. A day earlier, JPMorgan (JPM) - Get Report tanked after the bank racked up nearly $1 billion in legal costs associated with government investigations in the fourth quarter. WellsFargo (WFC) - Get Report also declined on a so-so quarterly report.
The Swiss National Bank unsettled global markets by scrapping its four-year-old cap on its currency, removing the 1.20 floor against the euro. Shortly after the announcement, the franc soared nearly 30% against the euro. European markets suffered a choppy trading session with Germany's DAX losing 250 points in the minutes after the Swiss National Bank's announcement before bouncing back. The Swiss Market Index plummeted more than 8% as investors fled in favor of "safe haven" assets such as gold and bonds.
Crude oil trading was volatile after the commodity posted its biggest gain in two-and-a-half years on Wednesday. Earlier Thursday, West Texas Intermediate had rallied more than 3% and reclaimed a level above $50 a barrel. By market close, oil had fallen 4.4% to $46.35 a barrel.
"It's more short-covering," said Michael Ball, portfolio manager of Weatherstone Capital Management, about the increased volatility in oil. "As people watch crude steadily come down, nervously trying to pick a bottom, once they started to see crude start to stabilize and move higher, they're now rushing in."
December producer prices felt the pressure of lower oil with the Producer Price Index down 0.3% for the month, a slightly deeper dip than a 0.2% decrease in November.
The focus has now turned to consumer inflation figures, due for release before the bell Friday. December's Consumer Price Index is forecast to fall 0.4%, its largest drop since December 2008, as the price of gasoline continues to fall. Core prices, excluding volatile items such as gas and food, is expected to tick up 0.1%, unchanged from a month earlier. That reading would lead to a 1.6% annual pace of inflation, slightly under the Federal Reserve's target 2% rate.
"Monetary policymakers likely will view upcoming weak headline consumer inflation readings as the products of temporary swoons in petroleum-based energy costs, however," said Societe Generale's Brian Jones. "As a result, we continue to expect the liftoff in administered rates to occur at the June FOMC meeting."
High-momentum tech names were dragged lower, led by a drop in Apple (AAPL) - Get Report shares of more than 2%. The company was under pressure after analysts at Mizuho downgraded the stock to "neutral" based on a predicted slowdown in iPhone sales.
Amazon (AMZN) - Get Report shares were also lower as Pacific Crest analysts reduced their 2015 revenue estimates by 1.7% to account for currency risks. However, the firm reiterated an "outperform" rating and raised operating margin and profit forecasts.
Target (TGT) - Get Report shares jumped 1.8% after the company announced its full exit from Canada. The retailer will shutter 133 stores in the country. Best Buy (BBY) - Get Report slid after warning of lower sales in the first half of this year on price pressure and weaker demand. Shares were down more than 14%.
BlackBerry shares were coming back down to earth after soaring nearly 30% Wednesday afternoon on Samsung takeover rumors. The smartphone maker denied reports that Samsung had approached it with an offer. Shares dropped 19.8%.
Adobe (ADBE) - Get Report shares gained 0.4% as its board announced a new $2 billion buyback program through to 2017. The company has been active in repurchasing stock, buying up $689 million over fiscal 2014.
RadioShack (RSH) plummeted nearly 36% on reports it could file for bankruptcy as early as next month. The electronics retailer had depleted cash reserves following a failed turnaround attempt, according to the Wall Street Journal.
--Written by Keris Alison Lahiff in New York.