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Iraq assassination sinks Dow

Market plunges 106 after killing of council leader

NEW YORK -- Wall Street, already beset by worries about the economy and world events, skidded even lower yesterday on news that the head of Iraq's governing council had been assassinated. The Dow Jones industrial average fell more than 100 points.

Bargain hunting helped the market recover a small part of its early losses, but investors' overall mood was one of depression. Stocks also fell on foreign exchanges in response to the violence in the Middle East and to political and economic events in India and Japan.

Uncertainty over US involvement in Iraq and President Bush's reelection chances rippled through Wall Street after Iraqi Governing Council president Izzadine Saleem died in a suicide car bombing in Baghdad that took the lives of eight others. Oil prices surged on the news, and the dollar fell against most major currencies.

"Fear is what's dominated this market over the past month and a half, whether it's Iraq or interest rates or inflation," said Brian Pears, head equity trader at Victory Capital Management. "Any new violence will have a negative effect on the market."

The Dow fell 105.96, or 1.1 percent, to 9,906.91, the lowest close for the blue chips since Dec. 5. Earlier in the session, the index fell 150.10, but it recovered somewhat as investors searched for bargains after weeks of heavy losses.

Broader stock indicators were also sharply lower. The Nasdaq Composite index lost 27.61, or 1.4 percent, to 1,876.64, its lowest close since Oct. 24. The Standard & Poor's 500 index was down 11.60, or 1.1 percent, at 1,084.10, for its lowest close since Dec. 17.

Overseas, Japan's Nikkei stock average plummeted 3.2 percent after a major bank there announced it would report a large loss for the year. In Europe, Britain's FTSE 100 fell 0.9 percent for the session, France's CAC-40 closed down 1.4 percent, and Germany's DAX index fell 1.3 percent.

The US market appeared to find a bottom last week after a major sell-off. Combined with continued investor nervousness about rising interest rates and possible inflation, however, Saleem's death sent stocks far below their previous lows for the year.

"The market is redefining its lows," said Michael Palazzi, managing director of equity trading at SG Cowen Securities. "I thought we had hit our lows last week, keeping above Dow 10,000 and 1,900 on the Nasdaq, but with each new event in Iraq, we'll break new lows."

Concerns over Iraq, inflation and interest rates outweighed the latest earnings news on Wall Street. Once-struggling Kmart Holding Corp. rose $4.32 to $48.62 after it posted its second straight profitable quarter after emerging from bankruptcy.

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