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Stocks fall as hopes for Europe debt deal falter

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks closed with steep losses Tuesday after disappointing corporate earnings and reports that a key meeting of European financial ministers had been canceled. Assets that tend to hold their value in a weak economy like U.S. government debt and gold rose.

The Dow Jones industrial average lost 207 points.

Manufacturing conglomerate 3M cut its 2011 earnings forecast, and U.S. Steel warned that demand for its products could slow. Netflix Inc. plunged 35 percent after the company cut its profit forecast and said it is losing subscribers following a price increase in July. After the market closed, Amazon Inc. plunged 17 percent after its earnings came in far below Wall Street’s forecasts.

The market was also pulled lower by a report that consumer confidence plunged in October to the lowest level since March 2009. The Conference Board index measures how shoppers feel about business conditions, the job market and their outlook for the next six months.

“It’s hard to parse this data and find any way that you can glean something positive about it,” said Tim Speiss, vice president at EisnerAmper Wealth Planning.

The Dow fell 207 points, or 1.7 percent, to close at 11,706.62. 3M fell 6.3 percent, the largest drop among the 30 stocks that make up the Dow average.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 25.14, or 2 percent, to 1,229.05. The Nasdaq dropped 61.02, or 2.3 percent, to 2,638.42. The losses turned the Nasdaq negative for the year once again. A rally Monday left the index up 1.8 percent for 2011.

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