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US stock markets lose more than 2 percent

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Mary Altaffer/AP

(Read caption) A trader reflects the gloomy mood on the the floor of the New York Stock Exchange Monday.

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After three buoyant months when US stock markets rose on marginally good news, investors on Monday took a long hard look at the economy and, seeing little to cheer about, sent stocks tumbling.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 187 points to 8612.13, its biggest point drop since April 20. Other indexes fell commensurately: the S&P 500 Index fell 2.4 percent to close at 923.72 and the Nasdaq declined 2.3 percent to end the day at 1816.38.

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There was no good evidence Monday that the US economy – or Europe's, for that matter – was improving markedly. The 16 nations using the euro saw record job losses – 1.2 million – in the first quarter of this year, according to a new report. The dollar rose, which pushed commodities and natural-resource stocks downward.

In the US, a manufacturing index from the New York Federal Reserve bank showed a five-point decline in general business conditions and a six-point drop in shipments. The index usually attracts little notice, since it's a precursor of a precursor of a closely watched national manufacturers' survey, writes Joshua Shapiro, chief US economist at MFR Inc. in New York. Today, it moved markets.

A separate housing index from the National Association of Homebuilders also declined slightly, suggesting that new home sales remained weak.

On Monday, that all added up to a general gloom in a market in search of strong signs of recovery.

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