The fourth quarter started off roughly for bank stocks as investors remained wary about an impending recovery.

The KBW Bank Index tumbled 5%, the Dow Jones Industrial average 2.1%, and the Standard & Poor's 500 index 2.6%.

One piece of disturbing news: The Labor Department said new claims for jobless benefits rose last week to 551,000. Economists had expected 535,000 claims, according to Thomson Reuters.

Several executive jobs are also in flux, led by Ken Lewis, who announced late Wednesday that he would retire from Bank of America Corp. at yearend. No successor was announced, and the Charlotte company's shares fell 0.7%.

Royal Bank of Canada said that Scott Custer, the CEO of its RBC Bank unit, would leave the company at the end of the month to be replaced by James Westlake, who has been the parent company's group head of international banking and insurance. Royal Bank of Canada's ADRs fell 3.3%

The Bancorp Inc. played musical chairs with some of its executives, naming Paul Frankiel chief financial officer. Frankiel, a former CFO at Republic First Bancorp Inc., succeeds Marty Egan, who became the chief accounting officer. The Wilmington, Del., company's shares fell 1.2%.

Joseph Campanelli, a former CEO at Sovereign Bancorp Inc., is staging a comeback, agreeing to become the president and CEO at Flagstar Bancorp Inc. Flagstar CEO Mark Hammond had already announced plans to step down at the Troy, Mich., company. Flagstar shares were unchanged.

Among the day's few gainers were Citizens Republic Bancorp Inc. in Flint, Mich., up 2.6%; WesBanco Inc. in Wheeling, W. Va., 1.4%, and Alliance Financial Corp. in Syracuse, N.Y., 1.1%.

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