Stocks Skid on Slowdown Fears

An early rally led by shares of Research In Motion gave way to a steep sell-off Thursday on more evidence that economic growth is slowing sharply.

Stocks posted solid gains in early trading before news hit of much weaker than expected Mid-Atlantic manufacturing and the fourth straight monthly decline in leading indicators. Stocks spent the rest of the day on the defensive, and the Nasdaq turned a 1% gain into a 1% loss by the close.

Research In Motion soared 9% after the company sharply raised its forecast for subscriber growth.

Cisco ended the day flat despite a Citigroup upgrade on valuation. was hit hard, down 5%, but AMD bucked the downtrend with a 2% gain, limiting losses in the chip sector.

HLTH and WebMD gained on their plans to merge.

Analog Devices and Synopsis gained ground on their earnings reports, but Vasco Data Security, Novatel Wireless, Blue Coat and LodgeNet plunged on their results.

The Nasdaq lost 27 to 2299, the S&P fell 17 to 1342, and the Dow tumbled 142 to 12,284. Volume declined to 3.7 billion shares on the NYSE, and 2.29 billion on the Nasdaq. Decliners led by a 24-8 margin on the NYSE, and 20-8 on the Nasdaq. Downside volume was 79% on the NYSE, and 79% on the Nasdaq. New highs-new lows were 61-96 on the NYSE, and 54-153 on the Nasdaq.

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