Wall Street stocks slid Thursday after investors registered their dismay at an apparent lack of progress during budget talks in Washington between President Barack Obama and key Republican lawmakers.

A deal must be reached by the end of the year to avoid what has been dubbed the "fiscal cliff" â¿¿ hundreds of billions of dollars in automatic spending cuts and tax increases that could plunge the world's largest economy back into recession.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 0.6 percent to 13,170.72. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 0.6 percent to 1,419.45. The Nasdaq composite index fell 0.7 percent to 2,992.16.

The decline in stocks came despite the fourth straight weekly drop in applications for unemployment benefits. Applications fell 29,000 last week to 343,000, the second-lowest this year, the Labor Department reported.

Benchmark crude was up 60 cents to $86.49 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract lost 88 cents to end at $85.89 per barrel in New York on Thursday.

In currencies, the euro rose to $1.3088 from $1.3075 late Thursday in New York. The dollar rose to 83.87 yen at midday, its lowest level in nearly 20 months, on expectations that Sunday's parliamentary election will usher in a government committed to a weak currency.

The U.S. Federal Reserve's move earlier this week to stimulate the slow-growing U.S. economy by spending $85 billion a month to help keep interest rates low also has helped weaken the dollar against other currencies.

___

Follow Pamela Sampson on Twitter at http://twitter.com/pamelasampson

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

If you liked this article you might like

What's Behind the Surge in Energy Stocks

Hillary Clinton Says Prosecuting Individuals is Key to Wall Street Reform