By Michael P. Regan and Rita Nazareth
NEW YORK - U.S. stocks plunged, driving the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index to the biggest decline since February 2009, as concern the global economy is weakening prompted a global rout.
Only three out of 500 stocks in the benchmark measure of American equities rose. Losses exceeded 10 percent for 13 of the companies including Alpha Natural Resources Inc. and Gap Inc., which fell after the retailer’s sales missed estimates. All 10 S&P 500 groups slumped, led by losses topping 5.3 percent for material, energy and industrial shares. Chevron Corp. and Alcoa Inc. fell more than 5.7 percent as Japan sold its currency, driving down commodities priced in the dollar.
The S&P 500 dropped 4.8 percent to an eight-month low of 1,200.08 at 4 p.m. in New York. It has retreated 11 percent since July 22, the biggest loss over the same amount of time since March 9, 2009, when the bull market began. The Dow Jones Industrial Average retreated 512.61 points, or 4.3 percent, to 11,383.83 today, erasing its 2011 gain.
“It’s unbelievable,” David Joy, Boston-based chief market strategist at Ameriprise Financial Inc., said in a telephone interview. His firm oversees $693 billion in assets. “The emotional aspect of this is ticking higher. It’s left everybody with this mindset that things are not good. The situation in Europe is getting everyone concerned. We had the impact of the Japan intervention in the currency market. The flight-to-quality trade is going to pick up.”