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MARKET DROPS SHARPLY AFTER BOUT OF PROFIT-TAKING

Stocks fell sharply today in the heaviest bout of profit-taking since the market's record-setting rebound began in early October.

At 3 p.m., the Dow Jones industrial average was down 170.44 at 9,162.64, heading for its first triple-digit loss in two months. The Dow, which gained 173.53 points last week, set a closing high of 9,374.27 last Monday for its first record since July.

Broader stock indicators also posted big losses, with the heaviest selling coming among the Internet and big technology names that have powered the Nasdaq rally.

While most analysts say the fears that dominated the market through early autumn were exaggerated, some also worry that Wall Street's recovery will prove too exuberant with a weak global economy still pressuring company profits.

Coming less than two months after the market bottomed out on Oct. 8, last week's return to record levels marked a 25 percent rebound for the Dow and a 50 percent rebound for the Nasdaq composite index.

Investors "worry that earnings can't keep pace with (stock) prices" after benchmark indexes rose more than 20 percent since Oct. 8 said Scotty George, chief investment strategist at Corinthian Partners Asset Management, which oversees $200 million.

Bank One Corp. fell 1 1/2 to 52 1/8 , U.S. Bancorp slipped 1 5/1 6 to 37 9/1 6 and Wells Fargo Co. fell 1 3/8 to 35 1 5/1 6.

The S&P major regional banks index has gained as much as 30 percent and the S&P financial miscellaneous index as much as 46 percent since Oct. 8. Citigroup Inc. fell 2 1/8 to 50 3/4 , while American Express Co. slid 1 3/8 to 102 1/1 6.

In other trading today, the Standard & Poor's 500 index was down 20.55 at 1171.74, and the Nasdaq composite index was down 43.20 at 1973.24. Both measures closed at record highs Friday.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers by nearly a 2-to-3 margin on the New York Stock Exchange, while Nasdaq decliners led by an 8-to-5 ratio.

NYSE volume came to 456.63 million shares, up sharply from the sluggish pace of Friday.

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