Wall Street plunged for a second day, triggered by computer gear maker Cisco Systems warning of slumping demand and retailers reporting weak sales for October. Concerns about widespread economic weakness sent the major stock indexes down more than 4 percent Thursday, including the Dow Jones industrial average, which tumbled more than 440 points.
Comments from Cisco that it saw a steep drop in orders in October and reports from retailers that consumers are skipping trips to the mall provided fresh evidence of the economy’s struggles. While sales at Wal-Mart Stores Inc. benefited from bargain-seekers, some specialty retailers posted huge drops in monthly sales.
Adding to investors’ list of worries, the Labor Department said the number of people continuing to draw unemployment benefits jumped to a 25-year high, increasing by 122,000 to 3.84 million in late October. It marked the highest level since late February 1983, when the economy was being buffeted by a protracted recession.
While new claims for unemployment benefits dipped by 4,000 to a seasonally adjusted level of 481,000 last week, the levels remain elevated. The findings added to the market’s unease ahead of Friday’s October employment report, a widely watched barometer of the economy’s health.
“I think everybody kind of simultaneously — the consumers and businesses — is tightening belts so that’s triggering a reasonably precipitous slowdown that’s widespread,” said Ed Hyland, global investment specialist at J.P. Morgan’s Private Bank. “This is something that we haven’t really seen, this level of this rapid and significant pullback both in the market and the economy.”
Thursday’s rout follows a drop of more than 5 percent in the market Wednesday that saw the Dow plunge nearly 500 points as investors fretted that weak readings on employment and downcast profit forecasts and job cuts from financial companies to steelmakers signaled broad economic troubles.
Still, the market’s two-day slide follows an enormous run-up since last week so some pullback was expected, analysts said. Through the six sessions that ended Tuesday, the benchmark Standard & Poor’s 500 index, surged 18.3 percent.
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By Alexandra Twin
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) — Stocks slumped for a second straight session Thursday, bringing the Dow’s losses to 929 points since Election Day, as fears of a prolonged recession sent investors running for the exits.
The Dow Jones industrial average (INDU) lost around 443 points, or 4.9%. The two-session decline of 929 points, or 9.7%, marked the biggest two-session point loss ever and the biggest two-session percentage decline in 21 years, according to Dow Jones.
The Dow slumped 486 points Wednesday as President-elect Barack Obama’s historic victory gave way to worries about the economy he inherits. Those same worries continued to drag on stocks Thursday.