Stocks fell to their lowest level in seven months Monday after traders couldn't shake fears that Europe's economic problems will derail a global recovery.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 115 points, or 1.2 percent, to its lowest close since November. The Dow lost 323 Friday after the government's May jobs report fell short of expectations.
Broader indexes logged steeper percentage drops Monday. The technology-focused Nasdaq composite index fell 2 percent.
Monday's drop was a smaller-scale repeat of Friday as traders again dumped stocks in the final hour. That signals traders would rather sell than be hit by surprises, especially because Europe's business day begins before trading opens in the U.S. Some traders say the slide has been overdone but that the market isn't likely to find much stability until there is a better sense about how Europe's economies will hold up under heavy cost-cutting.
With only a sprinkling of economic and corporate news to go on, traders again tracked the moves of the euro. The 16-nation currency hit another four-year low and hurt European markets. The euro fell as low as $1.1878 before rising to $1.1915. A drop in the currency is seen as a sign of flagging confidence in Europe's ability to rein in its debt without falling back into recession.
Financial stocks fell after a panel examining the financial crisis issued a subpoena to Goldman Sachs Group Inc. fell 2.5 percent. Bank of America lost 3.4 percent after news came out that the bank would pay $108 million to settle federal charges that its Countrywide Financial Corp. division had collected onerous fees from homeowners nearing foreclosure.
Utility and gold stocks were among the few gainers, a sign that traders want investments considered safer in weak economies. Utility company FirstEnergy rose 2.7 percent, while Barrick Gold climbed 4.1 percent.
"The market is playing defense and waiting for some resolution," said Mike Shea, managing partner at Direct Access Partners LLC in New York, pointing to the rise in gold stocks.
Questions over the health of Europe's economy again dominated trading. Investors are concerned that budget cuts in Europe will stall a global recovery. The worries have pounded stocks since major indexes hit 2010 highs in late April. The Dow is down 12.4 percent since reaching 11,205 on April 26. The drop of more than 10 percent from the peak indicates a "correction." It's the first major drop since indexes bounced off 12-year lows in March last year.
Jim Thorne, chief investment officer for equities at MTB Investment Advisers in Baltimore, said traders are afraid they're seeing a repeat of the financial crisis of 2008. But Thorne said that even though the jobs report Friday was disappointing, most numbers have pointed to an economy that is rebounding.
"Right now the market is getting to the point where it's uninvestable. Fundamentals don't matter," Thorne said. "This is a period that will be looked back upon six to eight months from now as a wonderful investing opportunity."
It was the lowest close for the Dow and the Standard & Poor's 500 index since Nov. 4.
According to preliminary calculations, the Dow fell 115.48, or 1.2 percent, to 9,816.49, while the S&P 500 index fell 14.41, or 1.4 percent, to 1,050.47.
The Nasdaq composite index fell 45.27, or 2 percent, to 2,173.90. The Nasdaq stands at its lowest level since Feb. 10.
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