Stocks decline on fears of slow global growth

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The U.S. stock market took a big hit amid worries of declines in consumer confidence, lackluster global economic growth and fears of a declining euro.

The stocks that took the biggest hits were industrial and technology – widely viewed as riskier stocks. The concerns sent investors to “safety assets,” sending the dollar, gold and Treasurys higher.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 2.7 percent, the measure’s worst single-day drop since June 4.

All 30 Dow components ended lower, led by declines by 6.3 percent in Alcoa and Boeing. Other losers were Caterpillar, down 5.5 percent, American Express, down 4.8 percent and Microsoft, which was down 4.1 percent.

Investor fears about the slow pace of global economic growth were reflected in the Standard & Poor’s 500 index, down 3.1 percent to a new low of 1041.25 – the lowest for the year so far.

All the S&P’s sectors fell, led by declines in industrial, technology and financial sectors, which are seen as riskier investments. Consumer staples and health care stocks posted the smallest declines.

The Nasdaq Composite slid 3.9 percent to 2135.18.

The sell-off started after the Conference Board sharply revised lower its April leading economic indicator for China, raising fears that a key driver of the global economy could slow.

Crude-oil prices fell for a second straight day, off 3 percent, to $75.94 a barrel, as investors fretted over how a slowdown in China could impact demand for commodities. The decline was the biggest in both dollar and percentage terms for oil since June 4.

New data on the U.S. housing market did little to encourage investors. The S&P/Case-Shiller home-prices indexes improved slightly in April over the previous month, mostly thanks to the demand for homes ahead of the expiration of the federal tax credit.

The latest readings come on the heels of disappointing data last week on home-sales activity, including both new and existing units.