Weak economic signals

FILE - In this Friday, May 31, 2013 file photo, trader Robert Moran, right, works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Global stock markets fell Wednesday June 5, 2013 as signs the U.S. Federal Reserve might scale back its super-loose monetary policy caused investors to trim equity investments. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

Richard Drew

A series of weak economic reports sent the stock market plunging to its lowest level in a month on Wednesday.

Companies like miners, banks and chemical makers, whose fortunes are most closely tied to the prospects for growth, led the market lower.

The troubling data included weak hiring at private companies, a plunge in mortgage applications and sluggish orders to U.S. factories.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 217 and finished at 14,960, a drop of 1.4 percent. It was the first close below 15,000 since May 6 and the biggest decline in seven weeks.

The S&P 500 ended down 22.48, or 1.4 percent, at 1,608.90. The index is 3.6 percent below its record close of 1,669 reached May 21. I

The Nasdaq composite dropped 43.78, or 1.3 percent, to 3,401.48, its lowest level in a month.

Stocks started lower and declined steadily throughout the day. After rising every month this year and climbing to record levels this spring, some investors said a significant pullback was overdue.

“The rally is tired and people are taking some profits.” said Brad Reynolds, at investment advisor LJRP.

Investors were also unnerved by a sharp 11.5 percent drop in mortgage applications last week. That was a disappointment because the rebound in housing has been one of the key factors supporting the stock market’s record-breaking rally this year.

There was also disappointing news on hiring, another one of the key supports for the market’s rally this year.

A measure of employment in the service sector fell to the lowest level since last July. That was a troubling sign because service companies, a broad category that includes entertainment, transportation and health care, have been the main source of job gains.

U.S. stocks joined a global rout that began in Asia. European stock markets also fell.

“Everywhere is red,” said Mark Schwartz, chief market strategist, at Lightspeed Financial. “It’s just a sea of red and we’re following in line.”