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Economic worries push markets lower for week

NEW YORK — Stocks fell sharply Friday after a series of depressing economic and corporate reports as well as high oil prices stoked concerns about the health of the economy. The major stock indexes fell more than 2.5 percent and the Dow Jones industrials lost 315.79 points.

Investors were unnerved by disappointing quarterly results from American International Group Inc. and Dell Inc.

Oil prices continued to stir concern about inflation after pushing past $103 per barrel for the first time.

While stocks made sharp gains in the first three days this week even amid somewhat lackluster economic readings, the litany of concerns investors succumbed to Friday reflected the undercurrent of uncertainty that has kept Wall Street on edge for months.

"We really had to face a plethora of negative news," said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Jefferies & Co. in Boston. "We just ran out of gas this week."

Hogan said while stocks held up admirably early in the week amid an uneven flow of economic news, they couldn't hold their gains after the latest round of weak economic signals.

The Dow fell 315.79, or 2.51 percent, to 12,266.39.

Broader stock indicators also tumbled. The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 37.05, or 2.71 percent, to 1,330.63, and the Nasdaq composite index declined 60.09, or 2.58 percent, to 2,271.48.

For the week, the Dow lost 0.93 percent, while the S&P 500 gave up 1.66 percent and the Nasdaq fell 1.38 percent.

Friday's losses sent stocks lower for February, the fourth straight month of declines.

Light, sweet crude jumped to a record of $103.05 in early electronic trading before settling down 75 cents at $101.84 a barrel on New York Mercantile Exchange.

Insurer AIG announced a $5.29-billion quarterly loss largely because of steep declines in the value of a portfolio of contracts known as credit default swaps. Such contracts pledge to cover missed payments on debt.

Computer maker Dell posted a 6 percent decline in its quarterly profit, falling below analysts' expectations, and warned its business could suffer from reduced customer spending.

Economic worries push markets lower for week 02/29/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 28, 2010 9:20am]
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