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Stocks drop in final minutes

Volatile session ends with DJ industrials falling 203 points.

A specialist works at his post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange Monday when Wall Street ended another highly volatile session with a last-minute loss as the market worries about a protracted downturn in the economy.

AP PHOTO

NEW YORK — Wall Street has ended another highly volatile session with a big last-minute loss as the market’s stubborn worries about a protracted downturn in the economy and tight credit markets erased the bulk of the financial sector’s gains. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 203 points, with almost all the decline coming in the last 10 minutes.

The Street’s back-and-forth was typical for a volatile market that has seen many recent rallies evaporate — particularly as hedge and mutual funds are forced to sell off even strong assets so they can meet investors’ demands for their money back.

Alfred E. Goldman, chief market strategist at Wachovia Securities, said the market’s late drop — which was particularly intense — after an earlier rally also reflects investors’ ongoing uncertainty about the direction of the economy.

“We were trading higher earlier on very light volume, but the buyers just couldn’t gather enough momentum to keep it going,” he said. “When confidence is razor-thin, the nervous tension goes way up and bam, the sellers take over.”

“It’s just an overall malaise about how bad the economic slump is going to be globally,” he said.

Banks got a boost earlier in the session after the Treasury said it signed agreements with nine financial institutions to buy stock in the companies.

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