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Unemployment And Retail Sales Reports Throw Dow 340 Pts. Down

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The Dow Jones Industrial Average, a stock market index used to gauge the performance of American stock exchanges, fell 344.65 at the close of trading Thursday. A string of dismal economic news has all but dashed investors' hopes for a late-year recovery. The Dow Jones industrials plunged nearly 350 points.

The exact reason for the drop is unknown, with different news agencies pointing to different causes. The New York Times cites a rise in unemployment numbers released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Labor and a fall in retail sales released by several large corporations.

According to the Associated Press, the number of people claiming weekly unemployment benefits rose 15,000 last week to 444,000, which, according to The New York Times is near a five-year high.

“This morning’s employment numbers continue to indicate that the labor sector remains soft at best and looks to continue to shed jobs throughout the remainder of the year,” Joseph Brusuelas, chief economist at Merk Investments, said in a statement to The New York Times.

One major corporation that posted a gain in sales was Wal-Mart, with a 3 percent boost, which resulted in a one penny loss in their stock. Fellow retailer Target posted a sales loss. Shares of energy companies ExxonMobil and Chevron fell by 1.5 and 3 percent, respectively.

The other two major American stock indices fell too. The S&P 500 fell 2.99 percent while the Nasdaq composite index fell 3.20 percent. The Dow's 344.65-point fall left the index at 11,188.23, a 2.99 percent decrease from the close of trading Wednesday.

According to the The New York Times, the drop is the largest since June of this year, but an expected announcement Friday of August unemployment data could cause the index to rise.

The New York Times and the Associated Press both report that the number of jobs in the service sector rose in August according to research done by the Institute for Supply Management. This is the first rise in the number of jobs in several months. points to the rise in the price of Treasury bonds as a reaction to data released Wednesday that the American economy would continue to be slow in 2009.

Michael M. Grybaum "Dow Industrials Fall 340 Points". The New York Times, September 4, 2008.

Kenneth Musante "Bonds rise on job market weakness"., September 4, 2008.

Madlen Read "Stocks Plummet After Retail, Unemployment Data". Associated Press, September 4, 2008.

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