Dow tumbles 300 points

Wall Street concerns about credit markets, housing sectors, and higher oil prices spark steep selloff.

By David Ellis, staff writer

NEW YORK ( -- The Dow Jones industrial average plunged more than 300 points by midsession Thursday on nervousness about credit markets, higher oil prices and more troubling news from the housing sector.

The Dow Jones industrial average (down 253.46 to 13,531.61, Charts) was more than 2 percent lower about three hours into the session.


The broader S&P 500 (down 35.71 to 1,482.38, Charts) plunged 2.2 percent while the tech-laden Nasdaq (down 64.09 to 2,584.08, Charts) fell about 2.3 percent.

Credit market fears, which prompted a 200-plus point selloff Tuesday, continued to trouble investors and pressure stocks.

"It's the number one catalyst," said Ron Kiddoo, chief investment officer at Cozad Asset Management.

Higher oil prices also weighed on stocks as prices briefly climbed above $77 a barrel, its highest level in nearly a year. U.S. light crude for September rose 65 cents to $76.53 a barrel.

"People will be talking $80 a barrel crude soon - I think energy is the second largest concern [today]," said Kiddoo.

Stocks retreated early Thursday following some disappointing earnings from a number of homebuilders including D.R. Horton (down $0.67 to $16.81, Charts, Fortune 500) and Pulte Homes (down $0.86 to $19.81, Charts, Fortune 500), the nation's No. 2 and No. 3 builders by revenue

A bigger-than expected drop in new home sales for June added to those woes, as the Commerce Department reported that new home sales tumbled 6.6 percent in June to an annual growth rate of 834,000.

On the earnings front however, Wall Street got some mixed news.

Dow component Exxon Mobil (down $4.49 to $88.30, Charts, Fortune 500), the nation's largest oil company, posted a decline in quarterly profits, sending its shares more than 4 percent lower.

But embattled automaker Ford Motor (up $0.29 to $8.26, Charts, Fortune 500) surprised investors but reporting an unexpected quarterly profit early Thursday, helped by reduced losses in its North American operations.

Apple (up $8.66 to $145.92, Charts, Fortune 500) shares soared nearly 7 percent after reporting results that beat Wall Street's estimates after the market Wednesday.

Drugmaker Bristol-Myers Squibb (down $1.07 to $30.52, Charts, Fortune 500) reported higher profits and the company raised its 2007 forecast, but shares were lower amid a decline in the drug group.

In other economic news, orders for big-ticket items meant to last three years or more rose less than expected in June.

Jobless claimsfell unexpectedly last week, the government reported, as new claims fell 2,000 to 301,000 for the week ended July 21.

Treasury prices surged, taking the yield on the 10-year note to 4.79 percent from 4.91 percent late Wednesday. Bond prices and yields move in opposite directions.

In major corporate news, Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway (down $1,240.00 to $109,050.00, Charts, Fortune 500) has acquired a small stake in Kraft Foods (down $1.28 to $33.56, Charts), joining activist investors Carl Icahn and Nelson Peltz in holding a piece of the food company, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

Market breadth was negative on heavier than normal volume. Losers topped winners by more than 10 to 1 on the New York Stock Exchange on volume of 1.06 billion shares. Decliner beat advancers 5 to 1 on the Nasdaq on volume of 1.45 billion shares.

The dollar was lower against the euro and the yen.

COMEX gold for December fell $7 to $679.50.

Major Asian markets declined while European stocks were also lower. Top of page