Another wicked October takes its toll on investor confidence

Slipping consumer confidence sent U.S. stocks tumbling Friday, nearly ending a six-month-long sprint that saw major indexes climb steadily and dramatically in the face of recession. The drop, on the last trading day of a wildly volatile October, capped a month of stock-price swings that whipsawed investors as the markets raced between wins and losses in response to positive then negative economic news.

Friday's sell-off was spurred by a disappointing Commerce Department report showing a 0.5 percent drop in consumer spending last month. The bad news was further bolstered by a University of Michigan survey that showed Americans were less optimistic about the economy in October than in the previous month. Stocks reacted dramatically, erasing all gains made Thursday, when markets rallied in response to a strong third-quarter GDP report.