NEW YORK (AP) -- Weak earnings guidance from Wal-Mart and a couple of tepid reports on the economy pushed stocks lower on Wednesday.
Wal-Mart logged its biggest one-day decline in almost three decades after the retailer stunned investors with an announcement that it expects its profit to fall as it works to fend off intensifying competition. JPMorgan led financial stocks lower after the lender's third-quarter earnings fell short of analysts' expectations.
A rally for stocks has stalled this week as worries about weakening global growth have resurfaced. A Federal Reserve report on Wednesday showed that factory output was sluggish in the late summer, in part because of the strong dollar. A separate report on retail sales indicated that Americans are still spending cautiously.
After a sharp summer sell-off in stocks that was followed by an early October rebound, investors are split as to what comes next for the market. Some are expecting a strong fourth quarter, while others think that there could be more selling to come.
"I'm pretty much in the bearish camp," said Ken Winans, president of Winans Investments, an investment advisory and research firm. "The fear has come back in."
The Standard & Poor's 500 index closed down 9.45 points, or 0.5 percent, to 1,994.24. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 157.14 points, or 0.9 percent, to 16,924.75. The Nasdaq composite fell 13.76 points, or 0.3 percent, to 4,782.85.
Wal-Mart was the biggest decliner in the S&P 500 and also dragged the Dow lower.
The retailer forecast that sales for its full fiscal year would be flat as the company was hurt by unfavorable currency exchange rates. Wal-Mart had previously forecast sales growth of 1 to 2 percent. For its next fiscal year, it said profit could fall by as much as 12 percent.
The stock slumped $6.70, or 10 percent, to $60.03, its worst one-day decline since January 1988.
Investors were also assessing earnings reports from three big banks.
Bank of America gained after reporting its results, but JPMorgan and Wells Fargo declined. JPMorgan said late Tuesday that its profit climbed 22 percent, but its earnings still fell short of analysts' estimates.
JPMorgan's stock fell $1.56, or 2.5 percent, to $59.99. Wells Fargo reported a slight gain in profits for the quarter, but its lending margins fell. Wells Fargo edged down 36 cents, or 0.7 percent, to $51.50. Bank of America rose 12 cents, or 0.8 percent, to $15.64.
The S&P 500 and the Dow are still lower for the year after a big slump in the previous two months on worries about the outlook for global economic growth. Some investors say the declines are overdone, and they're expecting a bounce back in the final quarter of the year.
Worries about the health of China's economy are overdone, said Michael Scanlon, managing director and portfolio manager at John Hancock Asset Management.
He's expecting a strong fourth quarter for stocks.
"The U.S. is in pretty good shape," said Scanlon. "You can overreact and take a view on every economic data point that we get, but that's probably not in your best interest."
While the recent worries about the outlook for growth have shaken the stock market, they have boosted demand for bonds. Treasury notes rallied on Wednesday, pushing the yield on the 10-year note down to 1.98 percent from 2.04 percent a day earlier.
TripAdvisor was one of the day's winners.
The travel website operator surged after it announced a tie-up with the online travel booking company Priceline. The deal will bring several Priceline brands, including Booking.com, to TripAdvisors' instant booking platform. TripAdvisor jumped $17.03, or 25.5 percent, $83.72, the biggest gain in the S&P 500.
In Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was down 1 percent. Germany's DAX fell 1.2 percent and in France the CAC-40 was 0.7 percent lower.
In metals trading, gold rose $14.40 to $1,179.80 an ounce. Silver climbed 21 cents to $16.12 an ounce and copper rose 3 percent to $2.42 a pound.
In currency trading, the euro rose to $1.1488 while the dollar slipped to 118.71 yen.
The price of oil edged lower Wednesday. Benchmark U.S. crude fell two cents to close at $46.64 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to price international oils, declined nine cents to $49.15 a barrel in London.
In other futures trading on the NYMEX:
-- Wholesale gasoline fell 0.6 cents to close at $1.308 a gallon.
-- Heating oil rose 1.3 cents to close at $1.483 a gallon.
-- Natural gas rose two cents to close at $2.518 per 1,000 cubic feet.