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Market Recap: As Summer Comes to an End, Stocks Close With a Whimper

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Markets were down today:

▼ Dow: -0.81 percent

▼ Nasdaq: -1.05 percent

▼ S&P: -0.78 percent

Precious metals:

▼ Gold: up -0.04 percent to $1,656.10 an ounce

▼ Silver: up -1.04 percent to settle at $30.42

Commodities:

▼ Oil: -0.34 percent

Market were down because:

The late-summer lull is about to end.

Stocks fell Thursday, with investors too worried about high gas prices and stagnant employment to be impressed by higher consumer spending.

But trading volume was light, the market's direction was steady, and there wasn't much in the way of major economic news.

That could all change Friday. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is scheduled to speak at 10 a.m. EDT, and investors will be listening closely for his opinion on the economy and whether the Fed will take more action to try to prop it up.

Some thought Bernanke's speech, for all the hype, would end up being a non-event. The statements from Fed officials are sometimes too ambiguous to really guide the market. And there's a lot of doubt that the Fed can do anything for the economy anyway.

For much of August, with many traders on vacation and a dearth of major economic news, the market has lumbered more than galloped. On Thursday, about 2.4 billion shares were traded on the New York Stock Exchange. The average for the year so far is about 3.7 billion.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed down 106.77 points to 13,000.71. The Standard & Poor's 500 fell 11.01 to 1,399.48. The Nasdaq composite slid 32.48 to 3,048.71.

The economic news that did surface Thursday was uninspiring to investors.

The government reported that consumer spending rose in July from June, after a flat June and a decline in May. Separately, retailers like Target Corp., Gap Inc. and Macy's Inc. reported higher-than-expected August sales.

But rather than send stocks up, investors instead worried that the gains were only temporary, driven by back-to-school shopping that will soon peter out.

Gas prices and job prospects, which are key when people decide how much to spend, were not encouraging. Hurricane Isaac helped push the national average price for a gallon of gas to $3.83 from $3.80 Wednesday, according to the AAA. The government reported that the four-week moving average for unemployment claims also ticked higher.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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