Stocks skid as worries over economic growth return; Dow average falls to its lowest in a month

NEW YORK, N.Y. – A series of weak reports on the U.S. economy is sending the stock market sharply lower.

The Dow Jones industrial average plunged 217 points, its biggest drop in six weeks, to close at 14,960 Wednesday, a loss of 1.4 per cent.

It’s the first time the Dow has closed below 15,000 in a month. Intel led the Dow lower.

Several reports suggested the economy is slowing, including weakness in hiring at private companies, a drop in mortgage applications and sluggish service-sector job growth.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 22 points, or 1.4 per cent, to 1,608.

The Nasdaq fell 43 points to 3,401, a loss of 1.3 per cent.

Five stocks fell for every one that rose on the New York Stock Exchange. Volume was average, 3.6 billion shares.