S&P 500 falls for fifth day as financials drag

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Wall Street stocks fell on Wednesday, with the S&P 500 notching a fifth straight day of losses as financial stocks were hit by fears that regulations on the banking industry would tighten once the Democratic Party takes control of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Financial stocks fell after Democrat Maxine Waters, who is expected to become chair of the House Financial Services Committee, made clear that she intends to push for stricter rules on the sector. Waters said she was concerned by the Federal Reserve’s efforts to reduce capital and liquidity requirements for banks and wants the central bank to vigorously supervise large banks.

The financial sector .SPSY dropped 1.4 percent and was the biggest percentage decliner on the S&P 500. The S&P 500 Banks index .SPXBK fell 1.7 percent.

U.S. stocks pared losses somewhat after British Prime Minister Theresa May won the backing of her senior ministers on a draft agreement for exiting the European Union, though they resumed their descent in the last half-hour of trading.

“Clarity on Brexit immediately lent a bid to the broader market,” said Ryan Larson, head of U.S. equity trading at RBC Global Asset Management in Chicago. “Financials are still lagging, but the broader market has recovered quite some from earlier lows.”

Technology stocks also extended recent losses as shares of Apple Inc AAPL.O fell for a fifth consecutive day on mounting concerns that iPhone sales have hit a wall. At their session low, Apple shares were down more than 20 percent from their record high.

Apple's 2.8 percent drop helped drag the S&P 500 technology index .SPLRCT down 1.3 percent.

The market had started on a buoyant note as oil prices rebounded and data showed consumer prices rose only as much as expected last month, easing fears of overheating inflation and a faster pace of interest rate hikes.

But sentiment turned lower by midday, with investors citing ongoing concerns about a slowdown in global economic growth prospects as reason to remain cautious.

“A cocktail of uncertainty regarding global growth, as well as trade-related issues, has put market speculators on their heels,” said Chad Morganlander, senior portfolio manager at Washington Crossing Advisors in Florham Park, New Jersey.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI fell 205.99 points, or 0.81 percent, to 25,080.5, the S&P 500 .SPX lost 20.6 points, or 0.76 percent, to 2,701.58 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC dropped 64.48 points, or 0.9 percent, to 7,136.39.

PG&E Corp PCG.N slumped 21.8 percent after the utility warned it could face "significant liability" in excess of its insurance coverage if its equipment was found to have caused the blaze raging in Northern California.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 1.54-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.93-to-1 ratio favored decliners.

The S&P 500 posted 12 new 52-week highs and 17 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 18 new highs and 206 new lows.

Volume on U.S. exchanges was 8.96 billion shares, compared with the 8.53 billion average over the last 20 trading days.

Reporting by April Joyner; Additional reporting by Pete Schroeder in Washington and Sruthi Shankar and Shreyashi Sanyal in Bengaluru; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Dan Grebler