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Drop In US Energy Use Drags Stock Market Lower

TIM PARADIS

NEW YORK (AP) ¿ A jump in the nation's energy inventories sent stocks falling Thursday as investors worried that demand for oil and gasoline is falling because of the struggling economy.

Major stock indexes slid about 1 percent from 13-month highs, including the Dow Jones industrial average, which fell 94 points after six days of gains. The inventory report from the government pushed crude oil down 3 percent, below $77 a barrel. A gain in the dollar also weighed on prices for commodities including oil by making them more expensive for overseas buyers.

A drop in energy company stocks upended an early advance led by technology shares, which rose after 3Com Corp. agreed to a $2.7 billion takeover by Hewlett-Packard Co. and as Intel Corp. said it would pay $1.25 billion to Advanced Micro Devices Inc. to settle legal disputes.

But stocks could get a boost Friday from The Walt Disney Co., which said after the closing bell that its quarterly profit jumped 18 percent on better results at its movie studio.

The disappointing report on energy usage overshadowed more upbeat news about the economy. The Labor Department said new claims for unemployment insurance fell last week to a seasonally adjusted 502,000 from an upwardly revised 514,000 the previous week. That's the fewest claims since early January and better than economists had forecast.

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