Dismal spending report hits stock market

Stocks tumbled Wednesday following some discouraging news on the U.S. economy and a weaker forecast of global growth.

A dismal report on retail spending in the U.S. and signs of slowing global growth drove stocks lower Wednesday and sent yields on government bonds plunging as investors sought safety.

U.S. stocks fell from the start of trading on a report that consumers pulled back on spending last month and on a slump in European markets.

At one point, the Dow Jones industrial average shed nearly 350, before gaining back much of its losses. The blue-chip index ended the session down 186.59 to 17,427.09.

The broader-based S&P 500 fell 11.76 to 2,011.27. It’s heading for its third straight week of losses.

The Nasdaq composite fell 22.18 to 4,639.32.

Investors dumped some key commodities on fears global growth is stalling, pushing the price of copper to a five-year low, and they piled into German, British and U.S. government bonds. The yield on the 30-year U.S. Treasury fell to its lowest on record.

“We haven’t seen volatility like this for years,” said John Canally, investment strategist for LPL Financial. “People are more worried.”

Aside from the retail report, the World Bank also weighed on markets. It lowered its forecast for global growth this year to 3 percent from 3.4 percent, blaming sluggish economies in Europe and Japan and a slowdown in China.

Stocks are swinging more this year as investors become anxious.

Investors will turn their attention next to more corporate earnings reports. A handful of big companies are expected to report Thursday, including giant money manager BlackRock, energy company Schlumberger and Intel Corp., the world’s largest chip maker.

Overall, companies in the S&P 500 are expected to report a modest 4.5 percent increase in fourth-quarter earnings per share compared with a year ago, according to S&P Capital IQ.