US Wall Street stocks plunge

Wall Street was back in sell-off mode early Thursday, with the Dow falling two percent amid worries over slowing economic growth that have dented sentiment for most of December.

A day after notching its biggest-ever point gain, the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost about 475 points, or 2.1 percent, to 22,404.34 near 1525 GMT.

The broad-based S&P 500 slid 2.0 percent to 2,419.47, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index tumbled 2.2 percent to 6,413.10.

Stocks opened lower but fell further after the Conference Board reported that consumer confidence fell sharply in the final month of the year. The index dropped to 128.1 from 136.4, far below analyst expectations.

A decline in expectations regarding job prospects and business conditions is “reflective of an increasing concern that the pace of economic growth will begin moderating in the first half of 2019,” said Lynn Franco, senior director of economic indicators at the Conference Board.

Wall Street stocks have been under pressure much of the month due to worries over higher Federal Reserve interest rates, the ongoing US-China trade war, political turmoil in Washington involving President Donald Trump and a US government shutdown.

Those dynamics led to four straight routs on Wall Street that started December 19 and ended decisively with Wednesday’s session that saw the Dow surge by nearly 1,100 points.

Some analysts believe the pullback in US stocks was disproportionately large given solid employment and US growth data.

The drop on Wall Street Thursday came as European stock markets declined in their first sessions since the Christmas holiday.

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