Inflation concerns, oil push stocks sharply lower

20/05/2008 - 19:11

By Kristina Cooke

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Stocks slid on Tuesday after oil prices jumped above $129 a barrel and a key inflation gauge rose more than expected, adding to mounting concerns about U.S. consumers' discretionary spending power.

Weak quarterly results and outlooks from discount retailer Target Corp and home improvement chain Home Depot Inc further underscored how consumers are struggling as gasoline prices soar and the value of their homes drops.

Bank shares were the biggest drags on the S&P 500 and the Dow, after an influential analyst warned that the credit crisis was far from over.

The tone was set early in the session, after the U.S. producer price index, excluding volatile food and energy costs, rose 0.4 percent last month. The rise for the year through April was the largest since 1991.

"The pullback on some concerns about inflation and higher oil is not all that surprising after last week's gains," said Richard Sparks, senior equities analyst at Schaeffer's Investment Research in Cincinnati.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> slid 223.09 points, or 1.71 percent, to 12,805.07. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> was down 14.64 points, or 1.03 percent, at 1,411.99, while the Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> was down 28.33 points, or 1.13 percent, at 2,487.76.

JPMorgan, the No. 3 U.S. bank, dropped 4.8 percent to $43.78 on the New York Stock Exchange, while shares of Citigroup Inc , the largest U.S. bank, declined 3.9 percent to $22.08.

Meredith Whitney, banking analyst at Oppenheimer & Co, said the credit crisis will result in three years of multibillion-dollar revenue declines for banks.

Technology shares also took a heavy beating. Chipmaker Intel Corp was down more than 3 percent a day after data-storage memory chip maker SanDisk Corp warned higher oil prices will hurt consumer spending on technology.

Intel dropped to $24.10, putting the stock among the top drags. SanDisk shares tumbled 3.6 percent to $28.95.

Shares of Home Depot, the largest U.S. home improvement chain, fell 6 percent to $27.12 after the retailer posted a 66 percent slide in quarterly profit.

Target fell 0.8 percent to $54.48 after it said its sales growth will likely remain sluggish until the U.S. economic environment improves or stabilizes.

The only two companies escaping the sell-off on the Dow industrials were Chevron Corp and Exxon Mobil , which benefited from the latest record high in oil prices.

(Reporting by Kristina Cooke; editing by Gary Crosse)

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