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U.S. stocks give up recent gains as oil prices sink

Marley Jay
Associated Press

New York — U.S. stocks skidded Friday in a wave of selling that wiped out most of the market’s gains from earlier this week. A drop in oil prices took energy companies sharply lower.

Investors were also troubled by a poll showing Britain may be more likely to leave the European Union.

Oil prices fell by the largest amount in two months, and banks slumped as bond yields fell for the second consecutive day, pulling interest rates lower. Machinery, technology and consumer stocks also lost ground. It was the market’s biggest loss in more than three weeks.

Eric Wiegand, senior portfolio manager for U.S. Bank’s Private Client Reserve, said investors are guessing at the outcome of the British referendum and the Federal Reserve’s meeting next week, as well as the impending U.S. presidential election.

The Dow Jones industrial average lost 119.85 points, or 0.7 percent, to 17,865.34. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 19.41 points, or 0.9 percent, to 2,096.07. The Nasdaq composite shed 64.07 points, or 1.3 percent, to 4,894.55.

U.S. crude shed $1.49, or 2.9 percent, to $49.07 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, the benchmark for international oil prices, fell $1.28, or 2.5 percent, to $50.56 a barrel in London. Oil prices had reached 11-month highs recently.

Stocks started the week with three days of gains and hit their highest levels in months, but finished back where they started. For the week the Dow was a bit higher, the Nasdaq lower, and the S&P 500 essentially unchanged.

That showed investors are cautiously optimistic, as the U.S. economy is still growing and corporate profits are expected to pick up later in the year. But they’re also very sensitive to uncertainty or potential trouble, whether it’s from slower global growth or Fed policy or Britain’s status in the European Union.

A poll in London’s the Independent showed that 55 percent of British citizens want to leave the European Union. Some investors fear Britain’s economy will be damaged if it votes to leave the EU, and that other nations might follow Britain’s lead.