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NEW YORK (AP) _ Investors hit by yet another disappointment, this time brokerage downgrades of General Motors and Ford, bailed out of stocks again Wednesday, sending the Dow Jones industrials down more than 280 points to close below 9,000 for the first time since October.

The Nasdaq composite and Standard & Poor's 500 indexes hit new five-year lows as the stock market endured a third straight day of heavy selling fed by bookkeeping scandals and poor prospects for earnings growth. Analysts said investors simply are too worried to buy stocks, even after nearly eight weeks of selling have driven prices lower.

``This market has completely broken the spirit of investors,'' said Al Mirman, strategist at V Finance in Sarasota, Fla. ``It is going to take a good year for investors' confidence to be reinstated.''