Specialist Geoffrey Friedman works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, where the Dow had its worst day since Feb. 25.
Specialist Geoffrey Friedman works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, where the Dow had its worst day since Feb. 25.

NEW YORK -- Weak reports on hiring and service industries sent the stock market sharply lower Wednesday, giving the Dow Jones industrial average its worst day in more than a month.

The Dow fell 98 points, or 0.7 percent, to 14,561, its worst decline since Feb. 25. The Standard & Poor's 500 index dropped 15 points, or 1 percent, to 1,554. Both indexes closed at record highs the day before.

The stock market started 2013 with a rally as investors became more optimistic about the U.S. economy, especially housing and jobs. The reports Wednesday disappointed the market and came two days after news that U.S. manufacturing growth slowed unexpectedly last month.

The losses were widespread. All 10 industry groups in the S&P 500 index fell. Utilities, which investors hold when they want to play it safe, fell the least, giving up just 0.2 percent. Banks and energy stocks had the worst losses, 1.7 percent and 1.4 percent.

"The market is overdue for a correction," said Joe Saluzzi at Themis Trading. "I don't think that the economy supports this type of a rally."

Signs of investor skittishness appeared across a number of different markets.

Commodities slumped. Ben-chmark oil prices dropped $2.74, or 2.8 percent, to close at $94.45 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange and gold fell $22.40 to $1.553.50 an ounce.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell sharply, to 1.81 percent from 1.86 percent, the lowest level for the benchmark rate since January.


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