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The stock market pared a portion of its losses in the last hour of trading, but still ended way lower bringing to a close what's been a real stinker of a week. The major indices were led to losses by a breakdown in brokerages and banks and significant weakness across most technology sectors.

Ongoing concerns about slowing economic growth and recent profit warnings from a litany of companies tag-teamed the market today with third-quarter earnings reporting season waiting in the wings.

Today's weakest stocks were the brokerages, which were getting hit by rumors of trading losses on junk bond desks.

Morgan Stanley Dean Witter


was off 8.7%,

Bear Stearns


was down 8%,

J.P. Morgan


was off 4%, and

Lehman Brothers


was off 4.8%.


American Stock Exchange Broker/Dealer Index

was down 5.5%. The banks were down in sympathy with those losses; the

Philadelphia Stock Exchange/KBW Bank Index

was off 3.6%.

Big-cap technology stocks -- which for a while were fighting the good fight -- seemed to have given up the ghost and were collapsing along with Internet, fiber optics and semiconductors, all of which were leading the way down.



was off 2.4%, and



, the

Nasdaq Stock Market's most active, was off 2.6%.



, the

New York Stock Exchange's most active stock, was also under pressure after a downgrade by

Salomon Smith Barney


Is there any safe place? Not really -- just six of 30 stocks on the

Dow Jones Industrial Average

are in positive territory. The

Dow Jones Utility Average

, for what it's worth, was up 1%.

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Sector Watch

Retailers were having a hard time of it today after a sales warning by



, the home improvement retailer. That stock was down 3.1%, and Dow component

Home Depot


lost 5%.

Fiber-optics companies -- generally volatile stocks -- were getting hammered.



dropped 3.9% and

JDS Uniphase


lost 3.9%.

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Bonds have recovered to post significant gains thanks to the weakness in stocks. Falling stock prices are seen as a leading indicator of economic activity. They also make bonds more appealing as an alternative investment.

Earlier, bond prices fell as investors concluded that the September

employment report


definition |

chart |


) makes the

Fed less likely to ease up on interest rates in the near future.

The September jobs report measured a decline in the unemployment rate to 3.9% -- matching the 30-year low it hit in April -- from 4.1% in August. A low unemployment rate is a key indicator of a healthy economy, or one that does not require assistance from the Fed in the form of easier monetary policy.

Also indicating that the economy is strong, the employment report counted 252,000 new nonfarm jobs in September. Netting out the loss of 27,000 temporary Census jobs and the return of 75,000 strikers, the underlying increase was 204,000 -- in line with the recent trend. A shift in monetary policy is unlikely to occur unless there is a pronounced slowdown in the pace of job-creation.

The benchmark 10-year

Treasury note lately was flat at 99 15/32, lifting its yield to 5.820%.

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