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Dow plunges into day with headlong dive

Stocks plunged in early trading Thursday, with steep declines in overseas markets leaving investors nervous about another volatile session.

After dropping 99.70 in the first few minutes of trading, the Dow climbed back to a gain of 27.01 points to 7,533.68 at midday. The Nasdaq Stock Market was lower, led by drops among leading technology companies.Broad-market indexes also sank at the opening bell, with Nasdaq composite index falling as much as 1.8 percent.

It's been a bumpy ride down Wall Street this week. The Dow dropped 554 points Monday, its worst point drop ever, and then rebounded Tuesday, with a 337-point gain, its biggest gain in history.

On Wednesday, the Dow climbed a mere 8.35 points, as the market took a breather from its recent wild gyrations.

But investors braced for more turbulence Thursday after a selloff overnight in Asian and European financial markets. Concerns over the stability of Southeast Asian economies have caused turmoil in global stock markets since late last week.

Hong Kong stocks fell 3.7 percent Thursday, while Tokyo stocks dropped 2.92 percent. Stock prices in London fell 2.1 percent by early afternoon.

Also playing into Thursday's market were concerns over the stability of Latin American markets, namely in Brazil, where rumors have surfaced about the failing health of local banks.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers by a 16-to-3 margin on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume came to 81.13 million shares, down from Wednesday's early pace.

The Standard & Poor's 500 list was down 8.69 at 910.47, the NYSE composite index was down 4.68 at 478.25 and the American Stock Exchange composite index was down 6.73 at 669.68.

The Nasdaq composite index was down 32.09 at 1,570.66, hurt by a slump in technology stocks tied to the decline in Asian markets. Those especially weak Thursday included Dell Computer, Intel and Applied Materials.