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FILE - This April 22, 2010, file photo, shows a Wall Street sign in front of the New York Stock Exchange. U.S. stocks slumped Thursday, July 31, 2014, as investors reacted to disappointing corporate earnings reports and assessed the implications of the approaching end to economic stimulus from the Federal Reserve. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

Dow falls 300 points as world worries rise

NEW YORK – For investors, there were few havens on Thursday.

The stock market had its worst one-day drop since February, driven down by a confluence of worries, from weak company earnings to the looming end of stimulus from the Federal Reserve.

But it wasn't just stocks that suffered; oil fell to its lowest level since March, gold dropped and even Treasury notes edged lower.

Stocks started the day lower after a dose of bad earnings news, and the losses accelerated throughout the day.

Whole Foods Market and Exxon Mobil were among companies that fell after reporting results or forecasts that disappointed investors.

The stock market has been on a bull run for more than five years, with the most recent leg of that surge pushing the Standard & Poor's 500 index to an all-time high a week ago. Investors are now getting concerned that stocks may have climbed too far and reflect too much optimism on the outlook for growth.

“We've been on a strong run,” said Jerry Braakman, chief in­vest­ment officer at First American Trust. “There's just more concern that stock valuations are rich compared to historical norms.”

The S&P 500 dropped 39.40 points, or 2 percent, to 1,930.67, its biggest loss since April 10. The drop pushed the index to its first monthly loss since January.

The Dow Jones industrial average plunged 317.06 points, or 1.9 percent, to 16,563.30. The Nasdaq composite fell 93.13 points, or 2.1 percent, to 4,369.77.

Exxon Mobil stock fell $4.31, or 4.2 percent, to $98.94 after the energy company said that oil and gas production slipped 6 percent, disappointing analysts. The decline was driven by the expiration of rights to a field in Abu Dhabi and natural field declines.

Investors are also concerned about the outlook for growth in Europe as tensions escalate between the European Union and Russia after the downing of a passenger plane over Ukraine. The European Union on Thursday revealed the details of broad economic sanctions against Russia.

The main driver behind Thursday's sell-off was a reassessment of the outlook for interest rates in the U.S. said Paul Zemsky, chief investment officer of Multi-Asset Strategies and Solutions at Voya Investment Management.

Fed policymakers said the central bank would make further cuts to its monthly bond purchases, a program that is intended to keep long-term interest rates low and encourage borrowing and spending.

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