A series of weak reports on the U.S. economy is sending the stock market sharply lower.

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The Dow Jones industrial average plunged 217 points, its biggest drop in six weeks, to close at 14,960 Wednesday, a loss of 1.4 percent.

It's the first time the Dow has closed below 15,000 in a month. Intel led the Dow lower.

Several reports suggested the economy is slowing, including weakness in hiring at private companies, a drop in mortgage applications and sluggish service-sector job growth.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 22 points, or 1.4 percent, to 1,608.

The Nasdaq fell 43 points to 3,401, a loss of 1.3 percent.

Five stocks fell for every one that rose on the New York Stock Exchange. Volume was average, 3.6 billion shares.


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