Despair over the economy has sent Wall Street plunging again, propelling the Dow Jones industrials to their second-largest point loss ever.
Stocks fell on a combination of disheartening economic data, including a big drop in retail sales and a Federal Reserve report that said tight credit conditions are hurting businesses across the country.
The downbeat data has convinced investors that the nation, if not already in a recession, is moving toward one. The Fed's Beige Book, which details conditions around the nation, found that the economy continued to slow in the early fall as financial and credit problems took a turn for the worse.
The Dow is down about 733 at the 8,577 level. On Monday, September 29, the Dow had its largest point drop 777.68.
The government's report Wednesday that retail sales plunged in September by 1.2 percent is fanning concerns about consumers. The decline was steeper than expected and is worrisome because consumer spending accounts for about two-thirds of U.S. economic activity.
Now that the government is moving ahead with plans to buy stock in banks to help revive the lending business, investors are refocusing their attention on the economy. And Wednesday's retail sales report was a reminder of how much trouble the country is in as a result of the credit crisis.