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Wall Street Traders Get Mauled By The Rampaging Bear

Stocks on Wall Street and around the world fell on Friday as concerns about oil prices and the Chinese economy persisted.

On Friday, Wall Street traders got the same treatment as the main character in The Revenant: A big fearsome bear attacked again and again.

By the close, stock prices were badly mauled. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 2.4 percent of its value, tumbling 391 points to close at 15,988.

The S&P 500 index dropped 2.16 percent to 1,880 and the tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index lost 2.7 percent to 4,488.

Wall Street's rough day started during the night, when investors in Asia and Europe began dumping shares. First, China's Shanghai composite index plunged 3.6 percent, falling into bear-market territory — down 21 percent from a high in late December. Then Stoxx Europe 600 dropped 2.8 percent.

All of that selling was tied to the bad news for energy companies. Their troubles worsened as Brent crude oil, the global benchmark, fell to $29.05 a barrel. West Texas crude closed at $29.42. Those prices are stunning, considering that oil was selling for nearly $115 as recently as June 2014.

Oil and other commodity prices have been falling amid fears that China's growth is slowing dramatically. A few years ago, China was gobbling up raw materials, such as iron ore, copper and coal. Now, as that country's growth cools, it is buying far less of everything.

That's hurting producer nations, especially in Africa, Latin America and even here in North America. So prices are way down for materials sold in bulk. And for oil, the problem has been made much worse by surging supplies. Iran is expected to soon flood the market with new oil exports.

And then other bad news piled on. A new report on the U.S. producer price index showed wholesale prices decreased 0.2 percent in December. And retail sales slipped 0.1 percent last month.

Intel Corp. added more gloom when it said its first-quarter sales would fall short of some forecasts. That knocked its stock price down 9 percent.

Investors are looking around and seeing energy companies laying off workers and currencies from commodity-producing countries in flux and questions being raised about weakness in manufacturing.

Such factors added to the pessimism, and this did not help: The U.S. stock market will be closed Monday for Martin Luther King Day. Traders typically get more jittery when they can't sell shares while other global markets are doing business.

So people moved money away from stocks and into safer investments, such as U.S. Treasury securities. There were so many takers for the benchmark 10-year Treasury note that its yield slipped to a three-month low of 2.0295 percent.

Analysts scrambled to remind average investors that markets are volatile and that the U.S. economy has lots of strengths, including robust job growth, cheap gasoline and an improving housing sector.

Or as Hugh Glass, the much-mauled character put it in The Revenant: "Don't give up, as long as you've got a breath in you."

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