NEW YORK (AP) - Investors grew nervous about the shape of the economy Thursday, dumping stocks at the last minute ahead of a key government report on unemployment.
After a sleepy day of small back-and-forth trades, stocks began sliding in the last half-hour. The drop intensified in the final 20 minutes, and with fewer than two minutes until the closing bell the Dow Jones industrial average was down nearly 103 points.
The index ended off its lows but still posted a loss of 87 points. The wave of selling swept through the market like a brush fire and revealed how skittish investors remain.
While traders offered various reasons behind the slide, each one suggested that investors remain on edge with worries about the pace of the economy's recovery. Now in the final month of the year, investors are eager to preserve the gains they've made in 2009. When a torrent of selling hits, many investors would rather just step out of the market.
The Dow slid 86.53, or 0.8 percent, to 10,366.15, but is still down only 1 percent from a 14-month closing high on Tuesday. It had been up as much as 55 points early in the day and crossed the flat line 89 times before day's end.
The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 9.32, or 0.8 percent, to 1,099.92, while the Nasdaq fell 11.89, or 0.5 percent, to 2,173.14.
Board of Trade
CHICAGO (AP) - Agriculture futures were mixed Thursday on the Chicago Board of Trade.
Wheat for March delivery fell 4.5 cents to $5.715 a bushel, while March corn slid 5.75 cents to $4.0075 a bushel and oats for March delivery slipped 0.5 cent to $2.63 a bushel. January soybeans jumped 13 cents to $10.47 a bushel.
Meanwhile, beef and pork futures traded lower on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.
February live cattle lost 1.37 cents to 82.9 cents a pound; January feeder cattle fell 0.85 cent to 93.1 cents a pound; December lean hogs edged down 0.42 cent to 59.25 cents a pound; and February pork bellies shed 1.23 cents to 81.07 cents a pound.