Stocks were sharply lower on Wall Street on Friday after a painful dose of weak economic data reignited fears that a recession may be imminent. A new round of woes in the financial industry also contributed to the sell-off.
The Dow Jones industrials dropped more than 100 points right after the opening bell, and closed down more than 300 points, or 2.5 percent. The Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index fell even more steeply.
The market was poised for a poor opening after American International Group, the world’s largest insurer, posted the worst quarterly loss in company history Thursday night. Shares of financial services firms, an albatross on the market for months, fell again on Friday after A.I.G. stock tumbled more than 6 percent in early trading.
The sell-off accelerated after a bellwether report on Chicago-area business activity unexpectedly plunged to its lowest level in more than six years. Business contracted in February, capping the worst two-month decline since 1980. The report, from the National Association of Purchasing Management, is considered a good predictor for manufacturing activity across the country.
The Dow closed off 315.79 points, at 12,266.39. The S.&P. fell 2.7 percent to 1,330.63, and the technology-heavy Nasdaq composite index dropped 2.6 percent to 2,271.48.
So much for those predictions of Dow 15,000.