Labor Department data showed that the number of people seeking new unemployment benefits in the U.S. rose more than expected last week. Meanwhile, U.S. retail sales rose only slightly in December. And, in another report, the Commerce Department said U.S. business inventories rose below economists' forecast in November.
Sears Holdings fell 5.7% to 32.08 after lender CIT Group said it would no longer finance loans to suppliers.
Home Depot said it will hire 70,000 seasonal workers to get ready for the spring season. Shares were down fractionally at $43.33.
And, a bearish USDA crop report for corn prices weighed on the stocks of fertilizer producers and machinery makers.
Light, sweet crude closed at $99.10 a barrel on news that the European Union may delay sanctions against Iran.