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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Slowing economy stifles stocks (ext)

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- U.S. stocks closed lower Wednesday, after the Federal Reserve released a pessimistic report on regional economic activity.

The Dow Jones industrial average (INDU) closed down 72 points, or 0.6%. The S&P 500 (SPX) shed 15 points, or 1.3%. The Nasdaq composite (COMP) lost 53 points, or 2%.

The three "E"s -- the economy, Europe, and earnings -- continue to dominate. But with few reports of consequence out of Europe, investors had been focusing on the latest earnings reports, keeping stocks mostly near the breakeven line for much of the day.

But stocks took a hit in the afternoon after the Fed's "Beige Book" painted a picture of an economy that's losing steam. The report made caused investors nervous.

"The market has so been so extraordinarily whippy that people don't like to play in that environment," said Peter Boockvar, equity strategist at Miller Tabak + Co. "It's too dizzying."

Still, market participants said that trading was relatively light, with many investors remaining gun shy, following the recent volatile roller coaster moves.

The latest economic report showed inflation took a bigger bite out of consumers' wallets in September. A 3.9% jump in prices over the last 12 months marked the biggest rise in three years.

The dollar fell against the euro, the Japanese yen and the British pound.

Oil for November delivery decreased $2.26 to $86.14 a barrel.

Gold futures for December delivery dropped $9.40 to $1,643.40 an ounce.

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