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WEAK START TO THIRD QUARTER

Associated Press

NEW YORK - Stocks began the third quarter with another loss after reports on jobs, housing and manufacturing raised investors' economic worries.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 41.49 points Thursday for its sixth straight loss, although it ended well off its lows ahead of the government's June jobs report. The report is critical because a rebound in jobs is needed for the economy to recover. The numbers are due before the start of trading today.

The latest economic reports followed a bad second quarter for investors and added to the importance of today's snapshot of the labor market.

The stock market has been sliding on concerns about the economy since hitting its 2010 high in late April. The benchmark Standard & Poor's 500 index dropped nine of the past 10 days. Investors are worried that they were too quick to bet on a rebound after major indexes plunged to 12-year lows in March 2009.

John Canally, an economist at LPL Financial in Boston, said traders were so scarred by the market's crash in 2008-09 that they have seeing lackluster economic numbers as signs that growth is going to disappear rather than just slow.

"You see this almost every time 12-15 months after the end of a recession. You hit sort of a soft spot," Canally said.

Canally said the likelihood of a so-called double dip, in which the economy begins to shrink again, has risen in the past month to about 20 percent from 10 percent. He said investors are far more pessimistic. "I would say the market is now over 50" percent, he said.

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