(Reuters) – Wall Street’s main indexes headed towards a fourth consecutive session of declines on Thursday, after Europe’s central bank said it would defer interest rate hikes and offered banks a new round of cheap loans, raising fresh concerns about global economic growth.

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., February 13, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/Files

European Central Bank President Mario Draghi said “we are (in) a period of continued weakness and pervasive uncertainty,” as he announced cuts to the bank’s growth and inflation forecasts.

“On the one hand, dovish talk could be bullish. On the other hand, maybe it is indicating just how slow things are over there,” said Chuck Carlson, chief executive officer at Horizon Investment Services in Hammond, Indiana.

“You wonder how long can the U.S. be the only horse dragging this global economy forward,” Carlson said. “The news on the ECB obviously points to, maybe you’re not going to get much help from Europe.”

Stocks have stalled after a strong rally to start 2019 that was fuelled by optimism over a U.S.-China trade deal and expectations the Federal Reserve will be less aggressive on interest rates. The benchmark S&P 500 has climbed about 10 percent this year, but investors have said it is unclear what will drive the next move higher for stocks.

“The rally in the U.S. market looks tired,” said Brant Houston, a managing director at CIBC U.S. Private Wealth Management in Denver, Colorado.

On Thursday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 212.92 points, or 0.83 percent, to 25,460.54, the S&P 500 lost 23.68 points, or 0.85 percent, to 2,747.77 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 83.41 points, or 1.11 percent, to 7,422.51.

The closely watched Dow Jones Transport Average was down 1.3 percent, on pace for its 10th consecutive drop. The transport index was dragged down by FedEx shares, which dropped 3.0 percent as Citigroup cut its quarterly profit estimates and price target for the package delivery company.

The S&P 500 dipped below its 200-day moving average, a closely watched technical level, during the session.

Consumer discretionary and financials were the worst performing major S&P 500 sectors. Real estate and utilities, two defensive groups, were the lone major sectors in positive territory.

Adding to the dour market tone, Kroger Co shares tumbled 9.3 percent after the grocer projected annual profit below Wall Street estimates.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 2.32-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.98-to-1 ratio favoured decliners.

The S&P 500 posted 18 new 52-week highs and 5 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 17 new highs and 51 new lows.

Additional reporting by Medha Singh and Amy Caren Daniel in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur and Bill Berkrot


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