NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Stocks sold off sharply in the final minutes of trading Wednesday as markets failed to look past weaker-than-expected private sector job growth in June compared with slightly better-than-expected regional manufacturing activity in the Chicago area. After tumbling 268 points on Tuesday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average picked up where it left off, losing 96 points, or 1%, to 9774. The blue- chip average plunged 10.4% in the second quarter, marking its worst performance since the beginning of last year. The S&P 500 traded lower by 11 points, or 1% to 1031, and the Nasdaq fell 26 points, or 1.2%, at 2109. Weaker-than-expected private sector job growth of 13,000 in June helped markets extend Tuesday's steep losses. On Tuesday, stocks plunged roughly 3% as a sharp downward revision to an economic indicator for China and a weak reading on U.S. consumer confidence in June renewed double-dip recession fears. Wanda Drummond, chief operating operator of Training the Street, said that despite recent market volatility and concerns about private sector job growth, Wall Street firms are hiring and are expected to keep hiring at a swift pace into next year. "Our numbers are definitely up," Drummond said, comparing demand at Training the Street, which helps bring new employees on board, particularly at the analyst and associate levels, with last year's figures. "Right now the population that we're looking at is the summer intern program, and next month, the number for the full-time employees. Those numbers are significantly higher as well so it definitely seems a little different than what the market is saying." "We're also hearing that recruiting and hiring for next year is going to be up even higher with the same audience
analysts and associates so it may be hitting Main Street a little slower but once you start getting this audience in for work, it's definitely going to have an impact on Main Street and a range of industries with all the services that they're going to need," Drummond said. Earlier Wednesday, the European Central Bank said it will lend roughly $161 billion to banks for three months in a move to calm market fears ahead of the expiration of a larger 12-month loan on Thursday. The ECB said 171 institutions subscribed to the three-month refinancing operation. Late in the day, Moody's also warned that it was looking at a possible downgrade to Spain. Overseas, Hong Kong's Hang Seng slipped 0.6% lower Wednesday while Japan's Nikkei lost 2%. The FTSE in London gained 0.05%, and the DAX in Frankfurt added 0.2%. On the financial regulation front, the Senate and House conference committee agreed to amend reform to remove a proposed $19 billion tax on the largest banks and end the Troubled Asset Relief Program three months early. Also on Wednesday, markets were responding to Tropical Storm Alex's upgrade to hurricane status late Tuesday.
The EconomyAutomatic Data Processing ( ADP) said the
Company NewsEnergy and industrial names performed better than most on the Dow. 3M ( MMM) was the sole blue chip component to finish in positive territory, though United Technologies ( UTX) and Pfizer ( PFE) lost far less ground than others. Alcoa ( AA), Walt Disney ( DIS) and Hewlett-Packard ( HPQ) applied the most pressure on the day.
Commodities and the DollarCrude oil for August delivery clipped 31 cents, to settle at $75.63 a barrel. Elsewhere in commodity markets, the August gold contract settled 3.50 cents higher at $1,245.90 an ounce. The dollar was trading lower against a basket of currencies, with the