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Stocks Finish With Mild Losses

Tickers in this article: SPLS GE ^DJI ANF ^GSPC JCP DE TGT ^IXIC

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Stocks fell for the fourth straight session Wednesday as nagging worries about the political disarray in Greece and its future within the eurozone continued to weigh on sentiment.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 33 points, or 0.3%, to finish at 12,598. The blue-chip index ran as high as 12,722 early in the session and closed just above its low for the day of 12,597.

Sharper-than-expected increases in housing and industrial production data had inspired buyers earlier in the session but the market lost steam in the afternoon, similar to the pattern on Tuesday when stocks saw a steady decline in the final hour of trading. The Dow has now closed in the negative for 10 of the past 11 sessions.

The S&P 500 dipped nearly 6 points or 0.4% to close at 1325 after peaking above 1341 earlier in the day. The Nasdaq shed nearly 20 points, or 0.7%, to settle at 2874.

"Most of the news about Europe is already out, although that doesn't mean anxieties won't weigh on the markets," said Brian Gendreau, market strategist for Cetera Financial Group.

Adding to the negative sentiment late Wednesday, minutes of the Federal Reserve's monthly policy meeting also flagged fiscal concerns for the United States, as the central bank warned of sharp fiscal tightening in 2013 unless Congress reaches an agreement on the federal budget.

Breadth within the Dow was negative with 17 of the index's 30 components ending in the red. The biggest percentage decliners in the index were Alcoa(AA) , American Express (AXP) , Bank of America (BAC) , Hewlett-Packard(HPQ) , Intel(INTC) , Microsoft(MSFT) , and United Technologies (UTX) . General Electric (GE) was by far the biggest blue-chip gainer, rising nearly 4%, on news that its GE Capital financial unit had resumed paying a dividend to the parent company. GE Capital is planning to pay a dividend of $475 million to GE in the second quarter, and it expects to fork over a special dividend of $4.5 billion to the parent company in 2012.

Other Dow components on the rise included Pfizer(PFE) , Procter & Gamble (PG) , Cisco(CSCO) and Merck(MRK) .

In the broader market, number of losers outpaced winners by 2-to-1 on both the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq. The weakest sectors were the financials, technology and consumer cyclicals, while defensive plays like conglomerates, consumer non-cyclicals and healthcare fared best.

On Tuesday, the major U.S. equity indices all finished at their worst levels in more than three months as Greece's ongoing uncertainty continued to damage sentiment.

After being unable to form a coalition government amid vastly conflicting views on the country's austerity measures, Greece now faces new elections in June. Still, French and German leaders, who met Tuesday in Berlin, indicated that Greece should stay in the single-currency bloc and that they would consider new ways to stimulate economic growth in the country.