Weaker than expected sales reports from retailers and another large number of claims for unemployment benefits dragged the stock market lower for the second straight day yesterday. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 41.59, or 0.3%, to 12,248.55. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index dipped 1.61, or 0.1%, to 1,312.94. The Nasdaq composite rose 4.12, or 0.2%, to 2,773.31.

A meeting of weak readings on the U.S. economy and persistent uncertainties over the financial health of some European governments have weighed on sentiment this week. Gloomy signs on unemployment, softness in manufacturing and a continued slump in housing have prevailed.

Thursday’s action follows a 280-point push in the blue-chip Dow on Wednesday, when stocks suffered their biggest declines since the middle of last year. Light volume contributed to the day’s instability. About 2.6 billion shares changed hands in NYSE compound .

Stocks turned lower mid day session after data showing that U.S. crude-oil inventories suddenly rose last week, a sign of lesser demand. Previously U.S. factory orders fell in April among weaker demand for big-ticket items. Early unemployment claims came in slightly better than expected, but overall levels were still eminent. In addition, applications stayed high, a sign of obstinate weakness in the economy.