Worries that the economic recovery was stalling caused the stock market rout Wednesday. Payroll processor ADP said private employers had added just 38,000 jobs in May, down from 177,000 in April. That and a sharply lower reading on a key manufacturing index sent the Dow down 280 points, the steepest fall since June 4.
Strong corporate-profit reports gave the S&P 500 its best first quarter since 1998, but the index has lost 3.7 percent since April 29 as worries over the economy have deepened. The index is still up 4.4 percent for the year.
Several retailers reported muted sales growth for May. Companies that cater to middle- and lower-income shoppers said higher food and gas prices had cut into sales. Gap Inc. fell 4.1 percent after sales fell across all its brands. Target Corp. fell 1.3 percent after missing expectations as sales traffic slowed during the second half of the month.
Financial companies fell, though less than the overall stock market. Goldman Sachs dropped 1.3 percent after it received a subpoena from the Manhattan District Attorney's Office to discuss its role in the financial crisis.