Traders gave in Monday to another case of last-hour anxiety and drove stocks to their lowest level in seven months.

The Dow Jones industrial average, down just 42 points at 3:15 p.m., closed down 115.48, or 1.16 percent. That extended the Dow's sharp drop from Friday, when it lost 323 points in response to a disappointing jobs report. Broader indexes had steeper percentage drops yesterday than the Dow, and Treasury prices rose as investors again went in search of safe investments.

Utility and gold stocks were among the few gainers, a sign that traders want investments considered safe in weak economies. Tech stocks, seen as some of the most vulnerable when the economy and the market are troubled, suffered some of the biggest losses.

The Dow fell 115.48, or 1.16 percent, to 9,816.49, while the Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 14.41, or 1.35 percent, to 1,050.47. It was the lowest close for the Dow and the S&P since Nov. 4. The Nasdaq composite index fell 45.27, or 2.04 percent, to 2,173.90.

There was no obvious catalyst for Monday's late slide, although traders were again preoccupied with Europe's economic problems.

Traders know that Europe's business day begins before trading opens in the United States, and they'd rather sell then wake up to an unpleasant surprise. The last-hour selling, which followed a similar move Friday, also recalled the 2008 financial crisis, when traders decided the best strategy was to dump stocks just before the close.

"The market is playing defense and waiting for some resolution," said Mike Shea, managing partner at Direct Access Partners Llc in New York, pointing to the rise in gold stocks.

Some traders say the market isn't likely to stabilize until there is a better sense about how European countries will hold up under heavy cost-cutting that could hamper their economic growth.

Latest Videos

Newsday LogoSUBSCRIBEUnlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months