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Dow Dives 268 Points, Flops Around 10,000

Stocks in this article: CSCO SUN MA

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Stocks nosedived and closed near their lows Thursday, pressured by global debt fears and labor market uncertainty ahead of Friday's government jobs report.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged 268 points, or 2.6%, to 10,002. The S&P 500 lost 34 points, or 3.1%, to 1063 and the Nasdaq stumbled by 65 points, or 3%, at 2125.

The blue-chip average experienced its biggest one-day point drop since last April and hit an intraday low just under 10,000 a few seconds before the close.

Fears about how struggling Portugal, Spain and several Eastern European countries will cover deficits weighed on global markets, lifting the U.S. dollar, which strengthened against a basket of currencies. The dollar index rose 0.6%.

>>Five Mid-Cap Stocks Ready to Break Out

Prices on commodities and related stocks nose-dived as a stronger greenback on sovereign debt fears diminished the appeal of dollar-priced assets to foreign buyers.

The most actively traded April gold contract shed $49 to settle at $1,063 an ounce.

Crude oil for March delivery settled at $73.14 a barrel, plunging $3.84 a day after EIA inventory data surprised with both a build of 2.3 million barrels in crude oil when a million-barrel decline was expected and a steeper-than-expected drop in gasoline stocks, which shed 1.3 million barrels.

The March natural gas contract shed a fraction of a penny to $5.42 per million British thermal units after the Energy Information Administration reported a storage withdrawal of 115 billion cubic feet for the week ended Jan. 29. Analysts polled by Platts had been expecting a withdrawal in the range of 121 billion to 125 billion cubic feet.

Prices on U.S. Treasuries lifted across the maturity spectrum as investors sought safety from riskier assets. The short-dated two-year note strengthened 5/32, weakening yields to 0.804%, and the benchmark 10-year note gained 27/32, lowering the yield to 3.602%. The 30-year bond rose 1 16/32, diluting the yield to 4.544%.

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