Financial stocks were among the biggest losers of Thursday's session, extending the stock market's swoon to fresh multiyear lows, as the deadline on a temporary ban on short-selling ended.

The three-week halt on short-selling of stocks in the sector was lifted just before midnight. The Securities and Exchange Commission had implemented the rule on Sept. 19 as an emergency measure to help stem the selling in bank stocks.

The latest selloff in the group came as credit markets continued to tighten despite emergency rate cuts Wednesday by the Federal Reserve and other central banks in Europe and Canada. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, which has several bank stocks as components, slid below the 9,000 level for the first time since August 2003.

Among Dow components, American Express ( AXP) was falling 7.2%, Citigroup ( C) was losing 6%, and Bank of America ( BAC) fell 4.9%. JPMorgan Chase ( JPM) bucked the trend, rising 1%.

Wachovia ( WB), which is still the subject of a battle between Citigroup and Wells Fargo ( WFC), was tumbling 24.5% to $3.82. Wells Fargo was down 16.8% to $26.54.

Insurers were mixed, as AIG ( AIG) slumped 21% to $2.52, while MetLife ( MET) tacked on 2.2% to $27.58. Hartford Financial ( HIG), which was reportedly approached by MetLife for a potential merger, was down 10.6% to $22.22.

Elsewhere, Morgan Stanley ( MS) and Goldman Sachs ( GS) were also among the worst performers of the day. Morgan was dropping 19% to $13.61, and Goldman was off 10.3% at $101.36.

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