U.S. stocks extended losses Thursday, as worries about a year-end rate hike and a plunge in oil prices weighed on market sentiment. The Dow Jones Industrial Average shed 254.15 points, or 1.44 percent, to 17,448.07. The S&P 500 dipped 29.03 points, or 1.40 percent, to 2,045.97. The Nasdaq Composite Index slid 61.94 points, or 1.22 percent, to 5,005.08.
As the U.S. jobs report for October came out much stronger than expected, it is widely believed that the Federal Reserve will pull the trigger on an interest rate hike next month. On Thursday, fresh remarks from several Fed officials further strengthened the case for a December rate liftoff. Chicago Fed President Charles Evans said in a speech that the Fed is close to reaching its employment mandate, but added he is less confident about reaching the inflation goal within a reasonable time frame.
Richmond Fed President Jeffrey Lacker said he does not think that recent low inflation "implies a more permanent departure from our target." St. Louis Fed President James Bullard said the Fed is quite close to normal with an unemployment rate of 5 percent and inflation only slightly below target.
Meanwhile, the market took a hit by a sharp decline in oil prices, which plunged Thursday after the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported a larger-than-expected increase in U. S. crude stockpiles last week.
The West Texas Intermediate for December delivery moved down 1. 18 dollars to settle at 41.75 dollars a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, while Brent crude for December delivery decreased 1.75 dollars to close at 44.06 dollars a barrel on the London ICE Futures Exchange. Dragged by falling oil prices, the energy sector sank 2.39 percent as the biggest loser among the S&P 500's ten sectors.
On the economic front, in the week ending Nov. 7, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 276,000, unchanged from the previous week's unrevised level, said the U.S. Labor Department Thursday.
The four-week moving average was 267,750, an increase of 5,000 from the previous week's unrevised average of 262,750, but still hovering around the lowest level in years. In a separate report, the department reported that the number of job openings was little changed at 5.5 million on the last business day of September. Overseas, European equities suffered big losses Thursday, with French benchmark index CAC 40 decreasing 1.94 percent, although European Central Bank President Mario Draghi reiterated that the monetary policy will continue to expand.
In Asia, Chinese shares closed lower after volatile trading Thursday, with the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index down 0.48 percent to close at 3,632.9 points. The CBOE Volatility Index, often referred to as Wall Street's fear gauge, rose 14.38 percent to end at 18.37 Thursday.
In other markets, the U.S. dollar decreased against most major currencies on Thursday as investors took profits on the greenback' s recent gains. In late New York trading, the euro rose to 1.0792 dollars from 1.0743 dollars in the previous session, while the dollar bought 122.66 Japanese yen, lower than 122.90 yen of the previous session.
Gold futures on the COMEX division of the New York Mercantile Exchange fell on Thursday, with the most active gold contract for December delivery down 3.9 dollars, or 0.36 percent, to settle at 1,081.00 dollars per ounce.