Stocks Down Sharply

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Stock prices are sharply lower at midday on Wall Street.

The Dow Jones industrial average is down 245 points at 7,983. Decliners on the New York Stock Exchange hold a 5 to 1 lead over advancers.

The Nasdaq Composite Index has lost 55 points at 1,451.

And the Standard-and Poor's 500 Stock Index is down 26 points at 814.

Trading on the New York Stock Exchange during the first two hours totaled 1.9 billion shares. Volume on the Nasdaq Market came to 764 million shares.

Between downbeat economic news and disappointing earnings news from Microsoft, investors have taken stock prices lower today.

Microsoft surprised the market by releasing its quarterly results early. The software giant told of an 11 percent drop in profits and said it will slash 5,000 jobs over the next 18 months.

Before the opening bell, the government said that the number of new claims for unemployment benefits rose more than expected last week to 589,000. The total matches the 26-year high for new claims seen last month.

The Commerce Department said new home construction plunged 15.5 percent to a record low last month.

This program aired on January 22, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.