Stock indexes drop as oil prices fall and worries about higher interest rates persist

NEW YORK, N.Y. – Stocks are falling in midday trading, led by declines in energy and utility stocks.

The price of oil took another turn lower Friday and traders are continuing to worry about higher interest rates in the U.S.

The Federal Reserve meets next week to discuss rates, and many expect the bank to start raising borrowing costs beginning in June.

The Dow Jones industrial average slumped 250 points, or 1.4 per cent, to 17,644 as of 11:45 a.m. Eastern.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 23 points, or 1.1 per cent, to 2,042. The Nasdaq composite declined 45 points, or 0.9 per cent, to 4,847.

Benchmark U.S. crude oil fell $1.78 to $45.26 a barrel in New York.

Among energy stocks, offshore rig company Transocean fell 4 per cent and Halliburton fell 2 per cent.