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Dow Jones Hits Four-Year Low As 4th Quarter Draws to Close

By Pradnya Joshi
NEWSDAY -- new york

If you thought your last mutual fund statement was ugly, wait until you see this quarter’s report.

The stock market drew the curtain on one of its worst quarters ever Monday, with the Dow Jones industrial average and the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index registering their biggest percentage losses over a three-month period since 1987.

Bogged down in a bear market for more than two years, Wall Street is plagued with concerns about corporate profits, the sluggish economic recovery and a possibility of war with Iraq.

“These numbers are bad,” said Howard Silverblatt, editor of quantitative services at Standard & Poor’s. “Most of the pensions are going to emulate” the performance.

The Dow closed at 7591.93 Monday, a new four-year low. The index of 30 blue-chip stocks was down 109.52 points for the day, and for the three months ending Monday it dropped 17.87 percent, its worst performance since losing 25.32 percent in the fourth quarter of 1987.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index ended at 815.29, down 12.08 points. The S&P 500 is above its bear-market low at the close on July 23 but is still down more than 17.6 percent for the quarter. Only 31 stocks in the index ended the quarter higher than the prices they were trading at at the end of June, while more than 230 stocks are down more than 20 percent, Silverblatt said.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index fell 27.07 points Monday to close at 1172.09. That index is down nearly 40 percent since the beginning of this year.

Optimism that crept into the market earlier in the year seems to have disappeared as Wall Streeters focus on negative news.

Investors chose to brush over solid personal income data released Monday that showed a 0.4 percent increase in August over July, to dwell on a disappointing 0.3 hike in consumer spending. Also, retail giant Wal-Mart lowered its estimate for September same-store sales.