U.S. consumers curtailed spending in September for the first time in five months the government reported on Friday. Combined with a weak report on consumer sentiment, it increased fears the economic recovery could falter as government stimulus spending winds down, sending the stock market into a downward spiral.
The news sent the Dow Jones Industrial Average plummeting by 294.85 points, or 2.51%, on Friday to close at 9,712.73. Meanwhile, the Standard & Poor's 500 Index fell by 29.93 points, or 2.81%, to close at 1,036.18 and the Nasdaq Composite Index plunged 52.44 points, or 2.5% to close at 2,045.11.
The Commerce Department said purchases fell by 0.5%, after gaining 1.4% in August, matching the median estimate of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News. But consumers continued to increase their savings even as their incomes dropped.
The Reuters/University of Michigan's consumer sentiment index rose to 70.6 in late October, up from 69.4 earlier in the month. However, that's still down from September's reading of 73.5.