Investors who drove blue-chip stocks to record highs this week paused to take profits today, knocking the Dow Jones industrial average down more than 120 points. Technology stocks once again outperformed the rest of the market.
The Dow fell 127.59 to close at 11,198.45. The Standard & Poor's 500 fell 19.78, to 1362.01, and the Nasdaq composite index fell 30.98, to 2774.62.
Consumer goods stocks that posted strong gains in recent sessions fell back as investors collected their gains. Procter & Gamble dropped 2 3/8, to 100 1/4.
Oil stocks contributed most heavily to the weakness in the Dow and the S&P 500. Crude oil prices tumbled Wednesday after inventory figures showed unexpectedly weak gasoline consumption as the peak summer driving season winds down.
Prices recovered slightly today, but tropical storms forming in the Gulf of Mexico kept traders on guard. Dow component Chevron fell 2 3/8, to 92-11/16, and Royal Dutch/Shell fell 2 5/8, to 61-11/16.
Major gains by selected Internet stocks kept the Nasdaq's losses fairly narrow. Priceline.com., which allows customers to bid on prices for airline tickets, hotel rooms and other items, climbed 7-7/16, to 72 5/8. Net2Phone, which has signed several distribution deals in recent days, rose 5-13/16, to 75-15/16.
Paper stocks were mostly higher after Merrill Lynch raised its rating on Georgia-Pacific, which rose 2 1/2, to 44.
Without any fundamental change in market conditions, traders said investors were stepping back after the Dow reached a new record close of 11,326.04 on Wednesday. Stocks rose after the Federal Reserve raised interest rates Tuesday and suggested that inflation now appears to be on hold.
The Commerce Department's revised first-quarter gross domestic product figures offered additional evidence that the growth of the U.S. economy has not escalated too sharply. [Story, Page E1.]
Storms that knocked out service on some New York subways and commuter train lines may have contributed to the day's low volume, traders said.