NEW YORK Stocks plummeted today, briefly hurtling the Dow Jones industrials down nearly 550 points as Wall Street succumbed to a global market plunge sparked by growing concerns that the U.S. and Chinese economies are cooling and that equities prices have become overinflated.
A 9 percent slide in Chinese stocks, which came a day after investors sent Shanghai s benchmark index to a record high close, set the tone for U.S. trading.
The Dow began the day falling sharply, and the decline accelerated throughout the course of the session before stocks took a huge plunge in late afternoon as computer-driven sell programs kicked in.
The Dow fell 546.02, or 4.3 percent, to 12,086.06 before recovering some ground in the last hour of trading to close down 416.02, or 3.29 percent, at 12,216.24, according to preliminary calculations.
Because the worst of the plunge took place after 2:30 p.m., the New York Stock Exchange s trading limits, designed to halt such precipitous moves, were not activated.
The decline was the Dow s worst since Sept. 17, 2001, the first trading day after the terror attacks, when the blue chips closed down 684.81, or 7.13 percent.
Investors dwindling confidence was knocked down further by data showing that the economy may be decelerating more than anticipated.
A Commerce Department report that orders for durable goods in January dropped by the largest amount in three months exacerbated jitters about the direction of the U.S. economy, just a day after former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said the United States may be headed for a recession.
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