Stocks fell sharply Wednesday despite a drop in oil prices as March retail sales fell short of expectations, damaging investor confidence in the economy.


The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 104.04, or 1 percent, to close at 10,403.93. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index dropped 13.97, or 1.2 percent, to 1,173.79. The Nasdaq Composite Index fell 31.03, or 1.6 percent, to 1,974.37.


U.S. retail sales rose 0.3 percent in March, the Commerce Department said, falling short of expectations after a downturn in department store and clothing sales. The March rise followed a stronger 0.5 percent sales increase in February and represented the smallest advance since a meager 0.1 percent rise in January.


Crude futures sagged after the U.S. Department of Energy reported a larger-than-expected build up in fuel supplies. Light, sweet crude for May delivery shed $1.64 to settle at $50.22 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.


Among local movers, shares of California Pizza Kitchen Inc. rose 6.9 percent to close at $24.49 after the L.A.-based operator of restaurants and franchises boosted its first-quarter net income estimate to 21 cents to 22 cents a share from 18 cents to 19 cents after Tuesday's closing bell.


And Image Entertainment Inc. gained 1.5 percent to $4.84 after the Chatsworth-based entertainment company's stock was rated "buy" in new coverage by analyst David W. Miller at Sanders Morris Harris. The price target is $7 per share.


On the down side, Computer Sciences Corp. lost 1.6 percent to $46.64 even as the El Segundo firm said one of its companies, Frederick, Md.-based DVC LLC, was awarded a two-year $19.6 million contract by the Defense Department to develop plasma-derived protections against chemical warfare agents. DVC won the contract along with Annapolis, Md.-based Baxter International Inc. The two companies will work together on the project.

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