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But low interest rates, other analysts pointed out, are not the problem. An investor stampede into bonds on Friday drove the yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note as low as 1.44 percent, the lowest on record.
Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke testifies next week before a joint committee of Congress, and the Fed next meets June 19 and 20.
Investors on Friday made their disappointment clear.
The Dow, the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq composite index all fell by more than 2 percent. The S&P, which was up 12 percent for the year through March, was left with a slender gain of 1.6 percent.
Homebuilder stocks fell the most, apparently because the dismal picture for the economy outweighed a report that construction spending rose for a second month in April.
The price of gold, which some investors have often bought over the past three years for safety in turbulent economic times, climbed $58 an ounce, to $1,622, the highest since early May.
Anticipating weaker world demand, investors drove down the price of oil by $3.49 a barrel to $83.04, the lowest since October and 24 percent below its peak of $109.77 in February.
That will at least provide help for American drivers: The price of gasoline, which peaked at an average of $3.94 a gallon in April, has fallen to $3.61. It is below $3 in parts of South Carolina, and the national average should be below $3.50 soon.
Tribune reporter Steven Oberbeck contributed to this story.
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