Chronic economic worries stifled Wall Street's attempt at a rebound Thursday as stocks fell for a third straight session despite a solid outlook at General Electric and modest but better-than-expected retail sales reports.

General Electric, a widely held Dow Jones industrial closely watched on Wall Street, said it was on track for another strong quarter and increased its stock buyback program. Encouraging sales at Wal-Mart Stores and other retailers also helped the market post early gains.

But the market, which had started the day higher, retreated after Richard W. Fisher, president of the Federal Reserve Bank in Dallas, repeated his belief that inflation was rising near the high end of the Fed's comfort zone. Some investors also awaited the government's employment report, due Friday and expected to detail job losses from the Gulf Coast hurricanes.

A continued drop in oil prices caused a sell-off in the energy sector, and small-cap and technology stocks suffered as investors moved into larger, more established companies.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 30.26, or 0.3 percent, to 10,287.10. Nasdaq composite index dropped 18.94, or 0.9 percent, to 2084.08. The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index fell 4.90, or 0.4 percent, to 1191.49.


General Electric, seen as a barometer of the overall economy because of its media, industrial and health care businesses, rose 91 cents, to $33.59.

Wal-Mart climbed 43 cents, to $43.93, after the retailer said its sales for stores open at least a year rose 3.8 percent. Rival discounter Target gained 78 cents, to $52.02.

Chevron slid $2.04, to $60; Exxon Mobil fell 38 cents, to $58.57; and Valero Energy dropped $2.73, to $103.04, all on heavy volume.

Merck fell 6 cents, to $26.83, after having remained in positive territory much of the session. The company announced that its experimental cervical cancer treatment, Gardasil, was effective in short-term prevention of the disease.


New York Stock Exchange composite index fell 36.70, to 7399.66.

American Stock Exchange index fell 32.41, to 1651.64.

Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks fell 5.53, to 639.45.


NYSE: 2.81 billion shares, up from 2.52 billion on Wednesday. Decliners outnumbered advancers

2 to 1.

Nasdaq: 2.12 billion shares, up from 1.96 billion. Decliners outnumbered advancers

2 to 1.


Crude oil for November delivery: $61.36, down $1.43.

Gold for current delivery: $471.90 a troy ounce, up from $466.10 on Wednesday.