Despite Comeback Bid, Stocks End Day Sharply Lower


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While Wall Street staged a mid-day comeback attempt, traders were unable to shake anxiety about the U.S. economy, leaving the Dow with a triple-digit loss.

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Today's Markets

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 131 points, or 1%, to 12930, the S&P 500 dipped 15.9 points, or 1.1%, to 1382 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 33.4 points, or 1.1%, to 3047.

The Dow was down for its fourth day in a row, it longest losing streak since late 2011. The blue-chip average has shed 335 points, or 2.5%, in that time, pushing it down to its lowest level since March 9. The broader S&P 500 and Nasdaq are also sitting at the lowest point since early March.

Volatility surged some 8.9% as tracked by the Chicago Board of Options Exchange's VIX. Wall Street's fear gauge has climbed for seven-straight sessions, the longest rally since 2003.

Meanwhile, traders took cover in safe-haven Treasury bonds and gold. The yield on the 10-year Treasury bond fell 0.021-percentage point to 2.035% as traders bid up the asset. Gold rose $13.80, or 0.85%, to $1,644 a troy ounce.

Every major sector ended in the red, but industrial, financial, basic-material and health-are stocks performed the worst. Indeed, Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) and Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT) were among the worst performers on the Dow.

Many major equity markets, including those in the U.S., Europe and Asia, were closed when the Labor Department released its monthly jobs report on Friday. The data showed the economy adding only 120,000 jobs last month, the smallest gain since October, and far less than many economists expected.

The report sparked worries among many analysts that the pace of job growth that seemed robust just months ago may already be sputtering. Indeed, investment-banking giant Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) sent a note to clients following the report saying "largely because of the weakness in the employment report, our standard metrics for evaluating the U.S. data flow have also started to send a less upbeat message."

Countering that sentiment, however, analysts at Barclays Capital said "we doubt the soft job growth in March is the start of a weaker trend." The analysts noted generally strong manufacturing and consumption data as reasons behind their assessment.

This week is set to be quieter on the economic front, with data focusing mainly on inflation and the balance of trade. However, economists are likely to pay close attention to the weekly jobless claims report on tap for Friday.

Commodities markets took a hit, tracking a weak performance across equity markets. Crude oil traded in New York fell 85 cents, or 0.82%, to $102.46 a barrel. Wholesale RBOB gasoline dipped 4 cents, or 1.3%, to $3.30 a gallon.

Corporate News

AOL (NYSE:AOL) struck a deal to sell 800 patents to Microsoft (NASDAQMSFT) for $1.056 billion. Shares soared close to 40% in early trading.

Avon (NYSE:AVP) said it is tapping Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) executive Sherilyn McCoy as its new Chief Executive Officer.

Foreign Markets

The Japanese Nikkei 225 sold off by 1.5% to 9546 and the Chinese Hang Seng slumped 0.95% to 20593.

European markets were closed for a holiday.

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