Big selloff on Wall Street
Dow industrials finish 361 points lower on credit market fears, while investors eye oil, earnings.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Credit market fears once again sent stocks reeling, as the Dow industrials plunged 361 points Wednesday, marking one of its biggest point declines of the year.
The Dow Jones Industrial average (Charts) finished 361 points, or 2.65 percent, lower - its fifth biggest point decline so far this year.
Wednesday's selloff also marks the second 300-plus point decline for the Dow in less than a week as the 30-stock index tumbled 362 points late last week.
Treasury prices rallied as stocks swooned, lowering the yield on the benchmark 10-year note to 4.33 percent, from 4.37 percent late Tuesday.
Stocks retreated at the start of the session on dismal earnings news from General Motors, before the battered financials once again became the trading focus.
Banks and brokerage stocks tumbled following a handful of warnings issued Wednesday that more writedowns were likely before the year's end.
Citigroup (Charts, Fortune 500) continued its recent decline, falling 3 percent. Goldman Sachs (Charts, Fortune 500) fell 4 percent and Lehman Brothers (Charts, Fortune 500) was nearly 6 percent lower. The AMEX Securities Broker/Dealer index (Charts) was 4.5 percent lower.
"It just seems like we get these repeats every few days," said Bill Stone, chief investment strategist at PNC Wealth Management.
After earlier analyst speculation that it would suffer a writedown on some of the complex mortgage-backed securities in its portfolio, Morgan Stanley announced late Wednesday it would take $3.7 billion loss on the firm's subprime mortgage exposure. Morgan Stanley (Charts, Fortune 500) shares finished 6 percent lower in regular trade on the New York Stock Exchange.
In related news, Washington Mutual (Charts, Fortune 500) shares tumbled over 17 percent after the company suggested that more weakness lay ahead in 2008. The company said that losses on loan defaults will continue to decline at the same rate in the first quarter of 2008 as in the current quarter.
And shares of Freddie Mac (Charts, Fortune 500) and Fannie Mae (Charts) fell after New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo issued a subpoena to the government-related lenders as part of an investigation into loans the pair purchased from banks such as Washington Mutual.
Just last week, the Dow industrials plunged 362 points after an analyst warned that Citigroup may have to cut its dividend in order to raise $30 billion in capital, which sparked fears about weakness in the broader financial sector.
After the closing bell, Cisco Systems (Charts, Fortune 500) delivered better-than-expected earnings, but Wall Street was disappointed by the results as shares of the network equipment maker fell over 9 percent in after-hours trading.
Media giant News Corp. (Charts, Fortune 500) reported a decline in earnings from a year ago late Wednesday, although it topped analysts' expectations, helped by strong box office results from films such as "The Simpsons Movie" and in its cable TV division.
And the world's largest insurer American International Group posted a 27 percent drop in its quarterly results, hurt by the weakened U.S. housing market and tighter credit conditions. The results missed expectations, sending AIG (Charts, Fortune 500) shares lower in after-hours trade.
Much of Wall Street's attention was focused Wednesday on oil prices, which soared to an all-time trading high of $98.62 a barrel. But a run-up towards $100 a barrel stalled after the weekly U.S. inventory report revealed that supplies fell less than expected.
Light, sweet crude for December lost 33 cents to settle at $96.37 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange after setting a new trading high during the session.
Gold prices continued to head higher, nearing the all-time high of $850 an ounce last reached in January 1980. COMEX gold for December gained $10.10 to $833.50 an ounce.
And the battered greenback continued to slide to a new record low against the euro, while the dollar also fell sharply against the yen.
On the corporate front, General Motors reported a bigger-than-expected loss, which included a $39 billion charge related to the writedown of tax credits for losses over the past three years, sending GM (Charts, Fortune 500) shares down over 6 percent.
Time Warner (Charts, Fortune 500), the world's largest media company, reported improved revenue that beat forecasts as it reaffirmed its 2007 outlook. It also announced that its America Online unit was making an acquisition. Time Warner is the parent of CNNMoney.com.
And GM rival Toyota Motor (Charts), which had been hit by sluggish sales in its two most important markets, Japan and the United States, nevertheless reported an 11 percent increase in profits and it raised its earnings forecast for the full year.
Market breadth was negative. Losers topped winners by 10 to 1 on the New York Stock Exchange as 1.65 billion shares traded hands. Decliners beat advancers by 4 to 1 on volume of 2.52 billion shares.
On the economic front, the Labor Department reported that worker productivity grew at its fastest rate in four years in the July-September quarter. At the same time, wage pressures and unit labor costs fell.