NEW YORK (AP) — Another slide in raw-material producers and oil companies tugged the stock market to a slight loss, amid heightened concerns about global economic growth. Dow Chemical and Chevron each lost 2 percent.
The news was hardly encouraging. A private measure of manufacturing in China hit its lowest level in six years, a result of weaker factory production, overall new orders and hiring.
That, along with plunging oil prices, could have led to a much bigger sell-off, said Jim Paulsen, chief investment strategist at Wells Capital Management. But that's hardly encouraging for investors looking for a signal that the worst is over. The market has finished lower in four of the past five days.
"I'm sure there are a lot of buyers on the sidelines," he said, "but right now it doesn't seem like a very good time to buy."
The major indexes headed higher at the outset of trading Wednesday, took a sharp turn lower just before lunchtime, then climbed back almost to breakeven in the afternoon. By the closing bell, the stock market wound up just shy of where it started.
The Standard & Poor's 500 index gave up 3.98 points, or 0.2 percent, to finish the day at 1,938.76.
The Dow Jones industrial average lost 50.58 points, or 0.3 percent, to 16,279.89, and the Nasdaq composite fell 3.98 points, or 0.1 percent, to 4,752.74.
Mounting concerns about slowing global economic growth and the timing of the Federal Reserve's first interest-rate hike in nearly a decade has battered markets recently. The S&P 500, the most widely used measure of U.S. investments, has lost more than 8 percent in three months.
Anthony Valeri, a market strategist at LPL Financial, said he thinks the choppy trading will likely continue until next week, when a batch of major U.S. economic reports come out. The government releases its monthly look at the job market next Friday.
In other news, Volkswagen's CEO stepped down Wednesday, taking responsibility for a growing scandal. His resignation followed the German carmaker's admission that it rigged software in its cars to pass U.S. emission tests. In a statement, Martin Winterkorn said he was "not aware of any wrongdoing on my part." U.S.-listed shares of Volkswagen surged $1.66, or 7 percent, to $27.10.
Major indexes in Europe recovered a portion of their steep losses from the day before. Germany's DAX finished with a gain of 0.4 percent, while France's CAC 40 picked up 0.1 percent. Britain's FTSE 100 gained 1.6 percent.
Evidence of slowing economic growth hit markets across Asia. China's Shanghai Composite Index dropped 2.2 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng sank 2.3 percent. South Korea's Kospi fell 1.9 percent, and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 lost 2.1 percent. Japan's stock market remains closed until Thursday for public holidays.
Back in the U.S., bond prices fell, nudging the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note to 2.15 percent from 2.13 percent the day before.
Precious and industrial metals futures ended mixed. Gold edged up $6.70 to $1,131.50 an ounce, and silver increased three cents to $14.79 an ounce. Copper slipped less than a penny to $2.30 a pound.
Oil futures fell following the report showing weakness in Chinese manufacturing. That renewed concerns that demand for crude will weaken as the global economy slows. Abundant supplies of crude are also pushing prices lower.
U.S. crude fell $1.88 to close at $44.48 a barrel in New York. Brent Crude, a benchmark for international oils used by many U.S. refineries, fell $1.33 to close at $47.75 in London.
In other futures trading on the NYMEX:
— Wholesale gasoline fell 3.5 cents to close at $1.382 a gallon.
— Heating oil fell 2.6 cents to close at $1.506 a gallon.
— Natural gas was little changed at $2.569 per 1,000 cubic feet.