NEW YORK -- Unable to shake their worries about Europe, investors drove stocks to a four-month low Thursday and piled into bonds, sending the yield on the 10-year Treasury note close to an all-time low.
The Dow Jones' industrial average posted its 11th loss in 12 days after a pair of discouraging economic reports further unnerved traders already concerned about a possible exit from the euro by Greece.
The Dow lost 156.06 points, most toward the end of the trading day, to close at 12,442.49. It is down almost 6 percent for May, and what had been a strong year for stocks has been reduced to a slender 1.8 percent gain.
The Standard & Poor's 500 stock index fell 19.94 points to 1,304.86, its lowest point since Jan. 17.
The Nasdaq composite fell 60.35 points to 2,813.69.
The yield on the benchmark 10-year note hit 1.69 percent. That is lower than any 3 p.m. reading since at least 1953, according to records kept by the Federal Reserve.
According to other financial data providers, including Dow Jones and Bloomberg, the yield on the 10-year dipped slightly lower, to 1.67 percent, at other points in the trading day last September.
"It's still seen as one of the safest investments in the world," said Guy LeBas, chief fixed-income strategist for Janney Montgomery Scott. "If you compare Europe's problems to our problems in the U.S., it doesn't look so bad over here."
The dollar and gold rose as traders sought refuge in lower-risk assets.Among Dow stocks, Caterpillar fell the most (4 percent) after reporting that global sales growth of construction and mining machinery slowed between February and April.
Wal-Mart stock rose more than 4 percent, the most in the Dow, after reporting a 10 percent jump in first-quarter income, beating Wall Street expectations.
The Conference Board said its measure of future U.S. economic growth fell in April after six months of increases. The drop came from fewer requests for building permits and a spike in applications for unemployment benefits.
Sears Holdings rose 3 percent after the beleaguered retailer turned a profit in the first quarter, benefiting from a gain on the sale of some stores.