U.S. stocks fall for fourth straight day

U.S. stocks fell for the fourth dayin a row as concerns about global economic weakness intensified, even as Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen reiterated her confidence in the U.S. economy.

Financial stocks fell hardest Thursday as investors worried that interest rates in the U.S. and elsewhere would remain low and sap bank profits. Oil prices sank again, this time to their lowest levels since 2003.

While all three major U.S. indexes finished lower, they recovered somewhat from far steeper losses earlier in the day.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 254 points, or 1.6 percent, to close at 15,660. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 22 points, or 1.2 percent, to 1,829. The Nasdaq composite fell 16 points, or 0.4 percent, to 4,266.

The S&P 500 index has dropped 14 percent since peaking last summer. Worries are high that the sharp slowdown in China's growth, falling U.S. corporate profits and other downward pressures will pull the economy back into a recession.

If a garden-variety one is on the way, the stock market's drop isn't even halfway done. Stocks have lost an average of 33 percent from top to bottom around past recessions, going back to 1929, according to a review by strategists at Credit Suisse.