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Special> Global Financial Crisis> Latest
UPDATED: November 21, 2008
S&P 500 Index Plunges to 11-Year-Low on Economic Woes
Wall Street plunged Thursday sending the Stand & Poor's 500 index to its 11-year-low

Wall Street plunged Thursday sending the Stand & Poor's 500 index to its 11-year-low on concerns about a deeper recession. The S&P 500 index fell 54.14, or 6.71 percent, to 752.44.

Worse-than-expected economic data

The U.S. Labor Department said Thursday new applications for jobless benefits rose to a seasonally adjusted 542,000 in the week ended November 15, the highest level since 1992. The figure is much higher than estimated 505,000.

"The leap in claims over the past few weeks has been deeply alarming but it is consistent, unfortunately, with the sudden collapse in just about all the coincident data on economic activity," said Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics Ltd., an economic research group.

"Even if claims rise no further, the current level is so high that a run of horrific payroll numbers is more or less guaranteed. As far as we can tell, companies have thrown in the towel since September, and are now hunkering down for a deep and extended recession." he added.

Manufacturing in the Philadelphia region shrank in November at the fastest pace in 18 years, a sign that the credit crunch and weak demand are causing companies to cut back.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia's general economic index was minus 39.3 this month, weaker than forecast and the lowest reading since October 1990, from minus 37.5 in October.

"This is horrible," said Shepherdson. "They are all at fantastically depressed levels, though, and are consistent with sharply falling output."

Meanwhile, the index of leading U.S. economic indicators fell in October for the third time in four months as stocks and consumer confidence plunged, signaling a deepening recession.

The Conference Board's gauge dropped 0.8 percent, more than forecast, after rising 0.1 percent in September, the New York-based group said. The index points to the direction of the economyover the next three to six months.

Heavy sell-off

Financial stocks and energy sector led Thursday's plunge. Shares of Citigroup tumbled over 20 percent below 5 U.S. dollars to their lowest level in more than 15 years Thursday even after Saudi Arabia's Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud reportedly plans to increase his stake in Citigroup back to five percent.

Citigroup shares plunged about 84 percent this year on poor profit and investors worried the financial giant would have no enough capital to cover its future losses.

J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., the largest U.S. bank by market value,declined almost 18 percent as reports said the company plans to cut 10 percent of its investment banking staff, or about 3,000 employees.

Energy tumbled Thursday after crude oil fell to lowest level inmore than three years below 50 dollars a barrel as global economicdownturn pared energy consumption.

Light, sweet crude for December delivery dropped 4 dollars to settle at 49.62 dollars a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange after sliding as low as 48.64 dollars a barrel, the lowest level last seen in May 2005.

S&P index of energy companies tumbled 11.2 percent while Chevron dropping more than 8 percent and dragged the most on the Dow.

Shares of General Motors and Ford ended higher after falling sharply earlier in the day after U.S. senators said they reached abipartisan agreement on a bill to bail out auto industry.

The Dow Jones average fell 444.99, or 5.56 percent, to 7,552.29.The Nasdaq composite index fell 70.30, or 5.07 percent, to 1,316.12.

(Xinhua News Agency November 21, 2008)

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