Stocks tumbled early Thursday as a surprise jump in retail sales failed to lift the market's downcast mood. Investors looked past the stimulus plan and economic reports to cautious earnings forecasts and lingering questions about the health of the banking sector.
After an intense focus on Washington this week on the stimulus plan and the Treasury Department's revision to its financial rescue plan, investors find little reason to be optimistic.
Investors remain concerned about the prospects for businesses and are hoping the stimulus plan's mix of spending and tax cuts will be able to help revive an economy mired in its worst recession in generations. But the plan, if passed, likely won't help immediately.
The House could vote on the measure as soon as Thursday, though Friday seemed more likely. The Senate would follow.
"The stimulus bill looks like a little bit of a wet blanket," said Randy Frederick, director of trading and derivatives at Charles Schwab. "There is some concern that maybe this thing won't work as well as expected."