* Oil prices hit fresh post 2009 lows, before paring some losses
* Data shows China’s imports fell for 13th consecutive month
* Indexes down: Dow 0.86 pct, S&P 0.62 pct, Nasdaq 0.04 pct (Updates to late afternoon, adds commentary, changes byline)
By Sinead Carew
Dec 8 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were down in a choppy trading session on Tuesday as oil prices pressured energy materials stocks for a fifth day and weak Chinese trade data reignited some fears of a global economic slowdown.
Crude prices hovered near their 7-year lows after U.S. crude dipped below $37 per barrel and Brent fell below $40 for the first time since early 2009.
This was after data released overnight showed China’s imports fell for the 13th consecutive month, with an 8.7 percent decline in November compared with a year earlier.
“That didn’t help matters and oil continuing to drop is weighing on the energy sector as well as sectors that are exposed to energy such as industrials and materials,” said Paul Hickey, co-founder of Bespoke Investment Group LLC, a research firm in Harrison, New York. “There’s a lack of a positive catalyst right now.”
Oil major Exxon, down 2 percent, was the biggest drag on the S&P. The S&P energy sector was down 0.95 percent, on track to close down for the fifth straight day. The sector has lost more than 9.8 percent since Dec. 1.
“We do think oil is putting in a bottom here as U.S. production is expected to fall and view this as a good buying opportunity,” said Gary Bradshaw, portfolio manager of Hodges Capital Management in Dallas, Texas.
At 3:14PM the Dow Jones industrial average fell 153.06 points, or 0.86 percent, to 17,577.45, the S&P 500 lost 12.85 points, or 0.62 percent, to 2,064.22 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 2.08 points, or 0.04 percent, to 5,099.73.
Nine out of 10 major S&P 500 sectors were lower, with a 1.8 percent fall in the raw materials index leading the charge. Dow Chemical weighed most on this sector with a 1.8 percent decline. The S&P’s health sector was the only one up on Tuesday with a 0.4 percent increase.
The U.S. Federal Reserve had cited macroeconomic uncertainty in its decision to hold rates steady at its September meeting. But most analysts think it will go ahead with a rate hike at its meeting on Dec. 15-16.
“There’s still some uneasiness about what’s going to happen when the Fed hikes rates,” said Hickey.
Qualcomm was the second biggest drag on the S&P with a 5.6 percent drop to $49.51 after European Union antitrust regulators charged the chipmaker with abusing its market power to thwart rivals.
Outerwall fell 24 percent to $44.11 after the Redbox DVD rental kiosks owner cut its full-year forecast to below analysts’ expectation on Monday.
Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by 2,048 to 987, for a 2.07-to-1 ratio on the downside; on the Nasdaq, 1,606 issues fell and 1,177 advanced for a 1.36-to-1 ratio favoring decliners.
The S&P 500 posted 8 new 52-week highs and 34 new lows; the Nasdaq recorded 21 new highs and 170 new lows. (Additional reporting by Marcus Howard and Tanya Agrawal in Bengaluru.; Editing by Anil D‘Silva and Meredith Mazzilli)