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North American stock market indexes bounced from their lows earlier in the day on Thursday, but hardly enough to make anyone cheer: Indexes remained at new lows, having erased all of the gains enjoyed earlier this week during an amazing, but short-lived, rally.

The Dow Jones industrial average was down 131 points, or 1.5 per cent, to 8447. It had been down as much as 380 points earlier. The broader S&P 500 was down 17 points, or 1.8 per cent, to 891. It had fallen as low as 866 earlier.

All 10 subindexes were down, and there wasn't a whole lot to distinguish them. Financials were the worst hit, falling 4 per cent, and consumer staples were the best off, falling just 0.9 per cent. The other eight subindexes, from energy to materials to industrials to consumer discretionary, fell between 1.4 per cent and 2 per cent - once again leaving investors with few obvious choices to ride out this latest wave of volatility.

Investors remain concerned about the deteriorating economic conditions in the United States. Industrial production fell 2.8 per cent in September, the biggest drop since 1975. Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Federal index, a business outlook survey for the region, plunged 37.5 per cent in October. Economists had been expecting a decline of just 10. This comes after a sharp drop in retail sales.

"It is no longer seen as a housing recession, but a full-blown consumer recession," said Sherry Cooper, global economic strategist at BMO Nesbitt Burns, in a note. "The consumer has represented as much as 72 per cent of the U.S. economy in recent years, so the deceleration in household spending has a profound impact on the overall economy."

In Canada, the S&P/TSX composite index was down 313 points, or 3.4 per cent, to 9011. Like its U.S. counterparts, it, too, was lower earlier in the day when it fell as much as 560 points.

All 10 subindexes were down. Materials suffered the worst, hit by the double whammy of a weaker gold price and a decline among agriculture stocks: the subindex fell 7.7 per cent. Energy stocks fell 2.2 per cent, financials fell 2.5 per cent and industrials fell 2.6 per cent. The best performer? That would be information technology, but even it fell 1.2 per cent.

 

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