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Major stock indexes drop about 10 percent since election

NEW YORK – Wall Street plunged for a second day, triggered by computer gear maker Cisco Systems warning of slumping demand and retailers reporting weak sales for October. Concerns about widespread economic weakness sent the major stock indexes down more than 4 percent Thursday, including the Dow Jones industrial average, which tumbled more than 440 points.

Major indexes have lost about 10 percent since Barack Obama was elected president – a vote preceded by a steep rally – and the losses represent the Dow’s worst two-day percentage decline since the October 1987 crash.

Comments from Cisco that it saw a steep drop in orders in October and reports from retailers that consumers are skipping trips to the mall provided fresh evidence of the economy’s struggles. Worries about automakers and the financial sector compounded investors’ unease.

A day ahead of today’s key October employment report, a widely watched barometer of the economy’s health, the Labor Department said the number of people continuing to draw unemployment benefits jumped to a 25-year high. The increase by 122,000 to 3.84 million in late October marked the highest level since late February 1983, when the economy was being buffeted by a protracted recession.