Economic Numbers Drive Stocks Down

The stock market was off sharply on Monday. Investors reacted to a variety of numbers, including a report on weak November sales at Wal-Mart, a rise in oil prices and a weakening dollar.

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JOHN YDSTIE, host:

The business news starts with stock market losses.

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YDSTIE: The holiday shopping season has gotten underway with mixed results, and that helped send stock prices tumbling yesterday. Worries about the high-flying tech stock Google also hurt the market. NPR's Jim Zarroli reports.

JIM ZARROLI: This is supposed to be a season of glad tidings and joy, but try telling that to stock market investors. Yesterday, the NASDAQ Composite Index fell more than 2 percent - its biggest one-day decline since June. And the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which has been setting records for weeks, dropped nearly 1.3 percent.

Even though many retailers reported strong sales over the weekend, the biggest retailer, Wal-Mart, was more pessimistic, and that helped dragged down the Dow. At the same time, there were new questions about whether Google was fairly valued because of an article over the weekend in Barrons.

Google's shares were down more than 4 percent, falling below $500 each, and that was bad for technology stocks. Investors were also said to be worried about a spike oil prices, which shot above $60 a barrel. High energy prices eat into consumer spending power and also hurt the bottom line at corporations.

Meanwhile, the decline of the dollar against European currencies raised questions about whether foreign demand for U.S. assets would decline.

Jim Zarroli, NPR News, New York.

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