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NEW YORK REPORT

U S stocks fell yesterday as jitters about the economy prompted investors to unload shares for a fourth-straight day, despite a sharp drop in the previous session.<br /><br />Major indexes fluctuated between positive and negative territory throughout the day before closing in the red, with the S&amp;P 500 index posting its worst losing streak since late May.<br /><br />A labour-market report showing more private-sector job losses in August than forecast made investors nervous ahead of Friday&rsquo;s highly anticipated monthly jobs data from the US Labor Department.<br /><br />The weak data also prompted stock investors to shift some of their money into assets deemed safe such as precious metals, sending gold futures up to their highest level in almost three months.<br /><br />&ldquo;Investors are turning to gold as a hedge&rdquo; against financial malady, said Chad Morganlander, portfolio manager at Stifel, Nicolaus &amp;Company.<br /><br />Financial stocks were once again the top decliners. The KBW Bank index lost 2.3 per cent, with regional banks such as <strong>SunTrust Banks</strong> down 7.2 per cent at $20.17.<br /><br /><strong>Regions Financials</strong> was down 6.3 per cent at $5.19.<br /><br />Moving up were shares of gold producers as the precious meta&rsquo;s price rallied to $981.50 an ounce.<br /><br />Shares of <strong>Gold Fields</strong> gained 11.3 per cent.