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S&P 500 posts worst day since October; energy shares sink

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange December 5, 2014. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

By Caroline Valetkevitch

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The S&P 500 posted its biggest daily percentage drop since Oct. 22 on Monday as oil's slump to a five-year low caused a selloff in energy shares.

Worries about global growth added to the bearish tone. Data showed China's exports grew at a slower-than-expected pace and imports dropped in November, while Japan's economy shrank more than expected in the third quarter.

The S&P energy index (.SPNY) tumbled 3.9 percent and traded at its lowest since June 2013 as Brent crude (LCOc1) fell to a five-year low on predictions oversupply would keep building until next year. Leading the decline, shares of Exxon Mobil (XOM.N) fell 2.3 percent to $91.70 while shares of Chevron (CVX.N) dropped 3.7 percent to $106.80.

The energy index is now down 12.8 percent for the year and is the only major S&P sectors in negative territory for 2014. [O/R] The S&P 500 is up 11.5 percent for the year so far.

Most growth-oriented sectors also fell, suggesting investors were avoiding riskier areas of the market.

Meanwhile several of the year's biggest gainers also sold off, possibly due to year-end profit-taking, said Michael James, managing director of equity trading at Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles. Among them, Apple (AAPL.O) was down 2.3 percent at $112.40, while GoPro (GPRO.O) shares fell 6.3 percent at $67.65.

"This has been a monster market, and it's been eking out new records. So it's taking a breather. The question is, is the U.S. equities versus other asset classes trade done," said Uri Landesman, president of Platinum Partners in New York.

The Dow Jones industrial average (.DJI) fell 106.31 points, or 0.59 percent, to 17,852.48, the S&P 500 (.SPX) lost 15.06 points, or 0.73 percent, to 2,060.31 and the Nasdaq Composite (.IXIC) dropped 40.06 points, or 0.84 percent, to 4,740.69.

The tumble follows gains Friday, which had pushed the S&P 500 to a record high close for the 49th time this year.

Volume picked up after midday, while the S&P 500 moved more than 21 points from its high for the day to its low, its largest high-to-low swing in more than a month.

On the New York Stock Exchange, 71 more stocks made 52-week lows compared with those making new highs, the largest gap skewed in favor of new lows since Oct. 16, the day after the market made its bottom in the recent pullback.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by 2,180 to 919, for a 2.37-to-1 ratio on the downside; on the Nasdaq, 2,048 issues fell and 699 advanced for a 2.93-to-1 ratio favoring decliners.

McDonald's (MCD.N) shares shed 3.8 percent to $92.61 after the fast-food restaurant chain reported a steeper-than-expected fall in global same-restaurant sales in November and said fourth-quarter results would be hurt by a supplier scandal in China and a stronger dollar.

About 7 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, compared with the 6.6 billion average for the month to date, according to data from BATS Global Markets.

(Editing by Bernadette Baum and Meredith Mazzilli)