US STOCKS-Wall St falls as oil drop drags energy sector
* Brent crude hits lowest level since July 2009
* Costco, Toll Brothers post quarterly results
* Indexes off: Dow 0.95 pct, S&P 0.87 pct, Nasdaq 0.71 pct (Updates to late morning)
By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK, Dec 10 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were lower near midday on Wednesday, weighed down by a sharp decline in the energy sector on the latest weakness in oil prices.
The S&P energy index was off 3.5 percent, the worst performing S&P sector, on track for its fourth drop in five sessions, as Brent crude touched a new five-year low of $63.56 on signs of oversupply and soft demand.
The sector is the worst performing of the 10 major S&P sectors for the year, down more than 15 percent, and the only group in negative territory. Falling oil prices have raised concerns about earnings for energy companies, with year-end tax selling putting additional pressure on the group.
"Oil seems to be the one theme that has more control over the direction of the market and the degree that volatility emerges than any other theme right now," said Peter Kenny, chief market strategist at Clearpool Group in New York.
"It is the driver of direction and will be until we find some stability, some sort of a price range that is significantly more predictive than what we've seen, that the market can start pricing in and using it as less of a variable and more of a constant." Continuación...