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U.S. stocks plunge, wiping out July's gains

Trader James Dresch, right, works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. On Thursday, the stock market had its worst one-day drop since February, driven by worries that include weak company earnings and the looming end of stimulus from the Federal Reserve.

Associated Press

Trader James Dresch, right, works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. On Thursday, the stock market had its worst one-day drop since February, driven by worries that include weak company earnings and the looming end of stimulus from the Federal Reserve.

NEW YORK — For investors, there were few havens on Thursday.

The stock market had its worst one-day drop since February, driven down by a confluence of worries, from weak company earnings to the looming end of stimulus from the Federal Reserve.

Whole Foods Market and Exxon Mobil were among companies that fell after reporting results or forecasts that disappointed investors.

The stock market has been on a bull run for more than five years, with the most recent leg of that surge pushing the Standard & Poor's 500 index to an all-time high a week ago. Investors are now getting concerned that stocks may have climbed too far and reflect too much optimism on the outlook for growth.

"We've been on a strong run," said Jerry Braakman, chief investment officer at First American Trust. "There's just more concern that stock valuations are rich compared to historical norms."

The S&P 500's 39.40-point drop was its biggest loss since April 10, pushing the index to its first monthly loss since January. The Dow Jones Industrial Average and the Nasdaq composite index also fell significantly.

Investors are also concerned about the outlook for growth in Europe as tensions escalate between the European Union and Russia after the downing of a passenger plane over Ukraine. The European Union on Thursday revealed the details of broad economic sanctions against Russia.

The main driver behind Thursday's sell-off was a reassessment of the outlook for interest rates in the U.S., said Paul Zemsky, chief investment officer of Multi-Asset Strategies and Solutions at Voya Investment Management.

"We're closer to the first move higher in interest rates," Zemsky said. "And there's definitely a camp that believes that the only reason that were at these levels is because the Fed has kept the rates at zero."

Company earnings are still at record levels, and expected to grow by 8.6 percent in the second quarter, according to data from S&P Capital IQ. That compares to growth of 4.9 percent in the same period a year ago and 3.4 percent growth in the first three months of this year.

Terrible Thursday

Major U.S. markets' performance on Thursday:

S&P 500:

-39.40 points,

2 percent, to close at 1,930.67

Dow Jones: -317.06 points, 1.9 percent,

to 16,563.30

Nasdaq:

-93.13 points,

2.1 percent,

to 4,369.77

U.S. stocks plunge, wiping out July's gains 07/31/14 [Last modified: Thursday, July 31, 2014 7:04pm]
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