updated 9/6/2011 2:44:39 PM ET 2011-09-06T18:44:39

Europe's debt problems rumbled through global financial markets again Tuesday.

Major Market Indices

U.S. stocks fell sharply in early trading when it appeared that European markets were heading for a second straight day of deep losses. The Dow Jones industrial average lost as many as 307 points by 10:45 a.m. Late-day recoveries in both the U.S. and Europe left indexes with relatively modest losses. The Dow ended down 101 points.

"It's becoming a pattern that the U.S. market breathes a sign of relief once trading in Europe is finished," said Quincy Krosby, market strategist at Prudential Financial.

Europe's debt problems, which have simmered for more than a year, are deepening. Bailouts for Ireland and Greece have not quelled fears that either country will default on its loans, an event that could lead to the collapse of the euro.

The Stoxx 600 Europe index lost 4.1 percent Monday, while U.S. markets were closed for Labor Day, as traders worried that Europe's debt problems could slow economic growth around the world. Italy was hit by a general strike Tuesday ahead of votes this week on a budget-cutting package needed to shore up that country's finances.

Peter Boockvar, equity strategist at Miller Tabak & Co., said investors are becoming more fearful that the Greek government may not pay bond investors back. "Officials are coming to the realization that there's no way Greece can pay its money back and maybe we're better off just letting it default," he said.

September is historically the worst month for the stock market. The Dow has dropped an average of 0.9 percent each September since 1950, according to the Stock Trader's Almanac.

Traders expect the trend to hold true this year as uncertainty continues over Europe's debt crisis and the stagnating U.S. economy. The U.S. government reported Friday that there was no job growth last month. It was the worst reading on jobs since September 2010.

The Dow fell 100.96 points, or 0.9 percent, to 11,139.30. It's down 4 percent so far this month, its worst start to September since 2002.

The Standard and Poor's 500 index dropped 8.73, or 0.7 percent, to 1,165.24. The Nasdaq composite fell 6.50, or 0.2 percent, to 2,473.83.

Pfizer Inc., Caterpillar Inc. and Johnson & Johnson were the only stocks among the 30 that make up the Dow to rise.

Signs of growth in the U.S. service sector helped tame concerns about another US recession. The Institute for Supply Management said the service sector grew more than analysts had expected in August. Growth in that part of the economy, which employs nearly 90 percent of America's work force, fell the three previous months.

Story: US service sector continued to expand in Aug., but still weak
Quotes delayed 15+ min.

Bank stocks fell more than the overall market. Federal regulators filed lawsuits late Friday against 17 major banks, saying they sold Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgage-backed securities that lost value when the housing market collapsed. Bank of America Corp. and JPMorgan Chase & CO. each lost nearly 4.

Assets that traders see as more likely to hold their value during a weak economy rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 1.97 percent. On Monday the yield fell to 1.91 percent in Asian trading, the lowest since the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis began keeping daily records in 1962. Bond yields fall when their prices rise.

Three stocks fell for every one that rose on the New York Stock Exchange. Volume was above average at 4.4 billion shares.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Video: CNBC looks for a safe haven

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