NEW YORK, Oct 8 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were lower for a third straight session on Wednesday, with the S&P 500 briefly dropping under a key technical level amid concerns over the pace of global economic growth.
China's services sector growth weakened slightly in September as new business cooled in the world's second-largest economy. That follows weak industrial data out of Germany, the euro zone's growth engine.
"Investors have become nervous that the weakness in Europe could spread to the U.S., notwithstanding the fact that U.S. jobs growth is continuing at a very healthy clip," said Charles Lieberman, chief investment officer of Advisors Capital Management, LLC in Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey.
The concerns come ahead of the start of the third-quarter earnings season, where investors will be monitoring how companies are faring in the current environment. Barclays Capital on Tuesday wrote that it expects fewer companies to beat revenue estimates "against a backdrop of weaker international economic conditions and a stronger U.S. dollar."
The day's losses were broad, though cyclical shares - which are tied to the pace of economic growth - were the hardest hit. Material stocks fell 0.9 percent while energy lost 1.4 percent alongside a 1.6 percent drop in the price of crude oil.
At its low of the day, the S&P 500 fell under its 150-day moving average, a level it has not closed under since November 2012, though it subsequently rebounded above it. The benchmark index is about 4 percent away from its record close, while the Russell 2000 is more than 11 percent from its own record, putting the small-cap index into correction territory.
The Dow Jones industrial average was rising 26.11 points, or 0.16 percent, to 16,745.5, the S&P 500 was losing 0.24 points, or 0.01 percent, to 1,934.86 and the Nasdaq Composite was dropping 5.84 points, or 0.13 percent, to 4,379.36.
Declining issues were outnumbering advancing ones on the NYSE by 1,770 to 1,139, for a 1.55-to-1 ratio on the downside; on the Nasdaq, 1,624 issues were falling and 930 advancing for a 1.75-to-1 ratio favoring decliners.
The benchmark S&P 500 index was posting 5 new 52-week highs and 23 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite was recording 10 new highs and 228 new lows. (Editing by Bernadette Baum)