Dow blue chips plunge as Euro panic grips Wall Street

Stocks on Wall Street plunged the most this year as a trading glitch added to a three-day slide triggered by Europe’s spreading debt crisis.

Data showing weak April retail sales in the US also spooked investors. Crude oil and other commodities were hit hard by new fears of weak demand.

At the close, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 347.80 points, or 3.2% to 10,520.32. Earlier, it plummeted more than 1010 points in what was later identified as a trading glitch.

For five minutes in the mid-afternoon, panic ensued as some trading systems halted and a selloff was triggered in others. It later transpired a trader had entered incorrect information into a bid.

Even so, it was one of the worse days on the Street. The S&P 500 index finished 3.2% down at 1128.15, down, while the Nasdaq Composite was down 3.4% at 2319.64.

The Dow was led lower by a 6.6% slide in Bank of America after Securities and Exchange Commission chairman Mary Schapiro made a speech calling for stronger controls on broker-dealers and investment advisers.

Other blue-chip financials were weak. JP Morgan Chase was off 2.8% and American Express fell 1.7%. Travellers managed a slight gain of 0.2%.

Other markets: Europe, Asia down

Bank stocks slid in Europe as sovereign-debt fears tightened their grip.
Some banking names slumped more than 7%, while a wave of heavy selling hit shares traded in Milan as debt fears rose. Italy’s FTSE Mib index finished down 4.3% at 19483.93.

In Greece, the Parliament passed the three-year €30 billion package of austerity measures by 172 to 121 as demonstrations continued outside.
In the UK, voters went to the polls as the pound retreated sharply, falling 1.7% to $US1.4845, its lowest level since late March.

Investors fear that a messy, indecisive election outcome, which the polls indicate is a strong possibility, could hamper the UK's ability to tackle its burgeoning fiscal deficit.

The FTSE 100 ended down 1.5% at 5260.99. Germany's DAX finished down 0.8% at 5908.26 and France's CAC-40 declined 2.2% to 3556.11, its lowest close since September 3, 2009.

Most Asian markets were sharply lower on increasing concerns over the spreading debt crisis in Europe.

Resource stocks tumbled across the region as the US dollar's strength hurt commodity prices.

BHP Billiton dropped 2.9% and Rio Tinto lost 3.8% in Sydney, commodities trader Mitsubishi slumped 5.4% and Japan Petroleum Exploration dropped 4% in Tokyo.

Cnooc gave up 2.4% in Hong Kong while Japanese exporters with high exposure to Europe taking a hit from the euro's weakness. Canon dropped 3.1%, Mazda shed 5% and Nikon lost 3.5%.

The Nikkei 225 dropped 3.2% to 10,695.69 on reopening after a three-day holiday.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 shed 2.2% to 4573.25 and Korea's Kospi lost 2.2% to 1684.71 after being closed for a holiday on Wednesday.

China's Shanghai Composite Index fell 4.1% to 2739.70, its lowest finish in more than eight months. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index slipped 1.0% to 20,133.41 and India's Sensex was down 0.5% to 17,004.25.

Taiwan's Taiex fell 1.5% to 7579.48 and Singapore's Straits Times Index slipped 0.7% to 2839.65.

Commodities: oil down, gold up

Crude-oil futures continued to weaken below $US80 a barrel as a three-day selloff continued.

Light, sweet crude for June delivery settled $US2.86, or 3.6%, to $US77.11 a barrel in New York. Brent crude on London's ICE futures exchange declined $US2.78, or 3.4%, to US$79.83 a barrel.

Gold futures settled near the $US1200-an-ounce mark as investors seek refuge from the world markets turmoil.

The most active contract, for June delivery, settled up $US22.30, or 1.9%, at $US1197.30 an ounce in New York.

After the floor session ended, electronic trading took the price as high as $US1211, a five-month high.

Currencies: Euro, pound down

The euro sank to a 14-month low of $US1.2654 before rebounding modestly in extremely choppy trading to $US1.2704 from $US1.2816 late on Wednesday.

The pound plummeted to $US1.4915 from $US1.5103. The dollar was at ¥92.39 from ¥93.66, while the euro was at ¥117.37 from ¥120.12.

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