U.S. stock indexes were lower on Thursday ahead of the long Easter weekend, dragged down by financial stocks, while gains in the dollar hurt commodities.
The dollar was on track for its best streak in almost a year as recent comments by U.S. Federal Reserve policymakers suggested support for more than one increase in interest rates this year, with the first perhaps as early as April.
St. Louis Fed President James Bullard, a voting member of the Federal Open Market Committee, became the latest official to take a hawkish stance after he said on Thursday that another hike "may not be far off."
The comments are in contrast with Fed Chair Janet Yellen's cautious tone on raising rates as the central bank remains data dependant and wary of weak global financial and economic conditions.
"The outlook for most investors is caution," said Amir Madden, portfolio manager at asset management firm GAM in New York.
Madden said the lack of clear guidance on the Fed's move, poor visibility on earnings and geopolitical concerns would weigh on investor sentiment.
Oil prices, which had recovered from a rout that sent both benchmarks to multi-year lows, fell below $40 a barrel as U.S. crude inventories touched record highs.
At 11:04 a.m. ET (1504 GMT), the Dow Jones industrial average was down 50.44 points, or 0.29 percent, at 17,452.15, the S&P 500 was down 7.19 points, or 0.35 percent, at 2,029.52 and the Nasdaq Composite was down 2.19 points, or 0.05 percent, at 4,766.67.
Nine of the 10 major S&P sectors were lower, led by the near 1 percent fall in the financial sector. Goldman Sachs was down 1.8 percent at $151.29 and weighed the most on the Dow.
Wells Fargo was down 2.2 percent at $48.91 after UBS started coverage of the bank with a "sell" rating. The stock was the biggest drag on the S&P 500.
Data on Thursday also showed durable goods orders fell less than estimated in February, while better-than-expected jobless claims data showed the labor market was stronger than previously thought.
Staples shares were up 7.8 percent at $10.84 after a report said a U.S. judge rebuked the Federal Trade Commission's legal tactics in the Staples and Office Depot merger case.
PVH Corp was up 6.2 percent, while Signet Jewelers and Accenture were up about 4 percent after strong quarterly results.
Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by 1,920 to 883. On the Nasdaq, 1,407 issues fell and 1,140 rose.
The S&P 500 index showed six new 52-week highs and no new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 13 new highs and 44 new lows.
(Reporting by Abhiram Nandakumar in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D'Silva)
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Published Date: Mar 24, 2016 21:30 PM | Updated Date: Mar 24, 2016 21:30 PM