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Stocks slump as economic, Europe worries continue
Stocks sink again as investors fret about Europe, US economy
By The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) ' Stocks sank again early Thursday as investors continued to fret about the struggling economies in Europe and slow growth in the U.S.

The U.S. government said before the market opened that the number of people who applied for unemployment benefits for the first time edged only slightly lower last week. Concerns about the economy have sent stocks sharply lower over the past two weeks.

European stocks fell broadly because of concerns that Italy or Spain may need help from the European Union. Italy's benchmark index fell 2 percent. The Euro Stoxx 50, which tracks blue-chip stocks in countries that use the euro, fell 1.5 percent.

Thursday started as another big sell-off on Wall Street. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 205 points, or 1.7 percent, to 11,691 in early trading. The S&P 500 lost 26, or 2 percent, to 1,234. The Nasdaq composite shed 63, or 2.3 percent, to 2,630.

Stock trading has been volatile this week because of concerns that the U.S. economy is weakening. Manufacturing, consumer spending and hiring by private companies are below levels that are consistent with a healthy economy.Kraft Foods was the only company among the 30 stocks in the Dow to rise. Kraft rose 2 percent after the company said that it plans to split into two. One company will focus on snacks such as Oreo cookies and the other will target the North American grocery business. General Motors Co. fell 2 percent despite beating analyst estimates. And CVS Caremark fell nearly 4 percent before the market opened after its revenue slipped last quarter.

Several national retailers are announcing July sales results throughout the day. Target, Gap Inc. and Macy's each fell by more than 1 percent, in part because of concerns that consumers would further cut back shopping if the economy continues to slow down.

The Dow rose 30 points Wednesday ' after being down 166 ' to break an eight-day losing streak Wednesday. Nine days would have been the longest since February 1978. The S&P 500 index rose 6 points and broke a seven-day streak.

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