By Noel Randewich
(Reuters) - U.S. stocks finished lower on Wednesday after investors sold oil companies and dumped brick-and-mortar retailers after a disappointing forecast from Macy's.
Energy stocks were bogged down by a more than 3 percent drop in oil prices to their lowest since mid-September on worries about growing U.S. stockpiles.
The S&P energy sector (.SPNY) lost 1.91 percent, the steepest decline among the 10 major S&P sectors. Exxon Mobil (XOM.N) slipped 0.89 percent and weighed most on the S&P along with Apple (AAPL.O), down 0.56 percent.
It was the second straight day of what investors described as largely directionless trading, with the U.S. Federal Reserve widely expected to raise interest rates in December for the first time in nearly a decade.
"The market has internalized the fact that there is going to be a rate increase," said Donald Selkin, chief market strategist at National Securities in New York, which has about $3 billion in assets under management.
"The market is going to drift for the next few weeks until the Fed announces its decision, but you will see big moves in individual stocks," Selkin said.
General Electric (GE.N) and Amazon (AMZN.O) gave the biggest boost to the index, with GE up 1.83 percent and the online retail heavyweight rising 2.06 percent.
Retailers sank after Macy's (M.N) said same-store sales unexpectedly fell in the third quarter and slashed its sales and profit forecasts for the holiday quarter ending in January.
Macy's shares plummeted 13.99 percent, while JC Penney (JCP.N) dropped 1.84 percent despite a 6.4 percent increase in same-store sales.
Shares of Nordstrom (JWN.N), Dillard's (DDS.N) and Kohl's (KSS.N) dropped between 3 percent and 9 percent.
Alibaba's (BABA.N) shares lost 1.94 percent even though the Chinese e-commerce giant said sales in its annual Singles' Day online shopping event on Wednesday hit a record $14.3 billion.
The Dow and S&P lost ground late in the day after trading close to break-even for much of the session.
All three major U.S. indexes closed 0.32 percent weaker: the Dow Jones industrial average (.DJI) lost 55.99 points to end at 17,702.22 points. The S&P 500 (.SPX) fell 6.72 points to 2,075. The Nasdaq Composite (.IXIC) dropped 16.22 points to 5,067.02.
U.S. bond markets were closed for Veterans Day.
Six of the 10 major S&P sectors were lower, with the utilities (.SPLRCU) and telecoms (.SPLRCL) index leading gainers.
Apache Corp (APA.N) fell 7.33 percent after Anadarko Petroleum (APC.N) confirmed its offer to buy the company had been rejected. Anadarko was down 3.80 percent.
Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by 1,742 to 1,304. On the Nasdaq, 1,788 issues fell and 987 advanced .
The S&P 500 showed 15 new 52-week highs and 11 lows, while the Nasdaq posted 98 new highs and 113 lows.
Volume was low, with about 6.2 billion shares changing hands on U.S. exchanges, below the 7.1 billion daily average for the past 20 trading days, according to Thomson Reuters data.
(Additional reporting by Abhiram Nandakumar in Bengaluru; Editing by Ted Kerr and Steve Orlofsky)