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Lower oil prices hurts stocks

The latest downturn in crude oil prices put investors in a selling mood Wednesday, pulling U.S. stocks lower for the second time this week.

The market decline, which wiped out some of the gains from a rally the day before, came on lighter-than-usual trading ahead of the New Year’s Day holiday.

Energy companies fell the most among the 10 sectors in the Standard & Poor’s 500 index, 1.5 percent. The sector is down 23.8 percent for the year. Southwestern Energy fell 6.8 percent, while Consol Energy sank 5.6 percent.

The price of oil shed 3.4 percent on Wednesday, extending its losses for the year to nearly 40 percent.

“You have oil prices affecting the market negatively today,” said Quincy Krosby, market strategist for Prudential Financial. “You throw in exceedingly low volume and it’s a recipe for skewing the market, in this case to the downside.”

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 117.11 points.