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Stocks plunge after U.S. hiring dries up in August

Stocks tumbled today on news that the U.S. economy added no new jobs last month.

The jobs report was the weakest in almost a year. It renewed fears that the U.S. might slip back into recession. Treasury yields fell and gold rose as investors piled into investments seen as less risky than stocks.

The Dow Jones industrial average was down 172 points, or 1.5 percent, to 11,321 at 11:20 a.m. Eastern. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 20, or 1.6 percent, to 1,182. The Nasdaq composite index slipped 39, or 1.6 percent, to 2,507.

All 30 stocks in the Dow fell. Only one, Verizon Communications Inc., turned positive briefly.

The losses wiped out most of this week’s gains, leaving the Dow up just 0.3 percent. Stock indexes rose last week for the first time in five weeks.

Volume was thin ahead of the holiday weekend. Shares dropped Thursday, breaking a four-day rally. Analysts said many traders had sold shares before taking off a day early.

If more people were at work, today’s sell-off would have been steeper, said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at Harris Private Bank. “Investors are spending more time thinking about beach balls and barbeques than they are about the lousy economic data,” he said.

The weakness of the Labor Department’s closely watched jobs report surprised investors. The unemployment rate remained stuck at 9.1 percent. It has been above 9 percent in all but two months since May 2009.