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Stocks tumble after banks' credit warnings

Wall Street extended its slide Friday as investors worried that the credit slump shows no sign of abating.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Wall Street finished a turbulent week with another huge drop Friday after major banks warned of further losses on their debt portfolios, raising investor concerns that the credit market slump shows no sign of abating. The Dow Jones industrial average fell more than 220 points.

Bank of America Corp., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Wachovia Corp. all said the ongoing credit crisis will cause another round of heavy losses during the fourth quarter. Financial institutions took big hits during the last quarter as losses from subprime mortgages hurt their balance sheets, and these three companies were just the latest to report bad news that sent stocks lower.

BofA said continued "market dislocations," including those related to securities it owns that are backed by loans, will affect its fourth-quarter results. The bank did not provide an estimate of how large the impact will be. JPMorgan said difficult conditions may cause a fourth-quarter writedown, but did not say how much.

Wachovia, the nation's fourth-largest bank said it faced a $1.1 billion writedown for October alone. Investors also were rattled by speculation that Barclays PLC was about to announce a $10 billion writedown, though the U.K. bank denied the rumors.

"The extent of the situation is unknown, and that uncertainty doesn't give investors any reasons to believe that a bottom might be in place," said Todd Salamone, director of trading and vice president of research at Schaeffer's Investment Research. "We just got more of the same this week rattling investors, and the question for investors becomes what's the next catalyst to drive stocks higher."

Further worries about the continuing credit market slump kept investors on edge a day after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said he expects the economy to "slow noticeably" this quarter.

He also said the dollar's weakness "may have some effect on import prices" — which was confirmed Friday in new government data. The Commerce Department reported U.S. import prices soared last month at their fastest pace since early last year.

Meanwhile, the University of Michigan's preliminary November consumer sentiment index tumbled for its weakest performance since October 2005.

The Dow Jones industrials fell 223.55, or 1.69 percent, to 13,042.74. The blue chip index is down 1,155.35 points, or 8.14 percent, since its trading high of 14,198.09, reached in August.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index was off 21.07, or 1.43 percent, at 1,453.70, while the Nasdaq composite index tumbled 68.06, or 2.52 percent, to 2,627.94.

Friday's performance capped another dismal week for stocks. The Dow racheted up and down, including a 360-point plunge Wednesday that was the blue chips' third drop of more than 350 points in a month; the volatility was proof of how anxious and how quick to sell investors are in what has become a steady flow of bad news about credit losses.

For the week, the Dow rose dropped 4.06 percent and the S&P 500 tumbled 3.71 percent. The technology-focused Nasdaq, which often trades with more volatility, plunged 6.49 percent.

Light, sweet crude for December delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange rose 86 cents to settle at $96.32 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Bond prices rose, with the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note falling to 4.22 percent from 4.27 percent late Thursday. Yields and prices move in opposite directions. The bond market will be closed Monday for the Veterans Day holiday observance; the stock market will be open. Meanwhile, both gold and the dollar were lower.

Financial stocks were among the hardest hit Friday, though the banks that warned about the fourth quarter finished mostly flat amid hopes that their announcements might be signaling the end of the current period's trouble. BofA rose 49 cents to $43.99, JPMorgan fell 32 cents to $42.29, and Wachovia was up 31 cents at $40.61.

Investors were uneasy about tech stocks after Qualcomm Inc., the nation's second-biggest maker of chips that run mobile phones, predicted that heightened competition and legal troubles will cause 2008 results to fall 4 percent to 7 percent below Wall Street projections.

Qualcomm fell $1.66, or 4.2 percent, to $38.10.

Cisco Systems Inc. was another drag on the technology sector. It fell $1.05, or 3.5 percent, to $28.58 after the company warned of a dramatic decline in domestic business orders.

Merck & Co. said it will pay $4.85 billion to settle thousands of lawsuits over its painkiller Vioxx — a move considered to be the biggest drug settlement ever. The offer was finalized early Friday as Merck and the plaintiffs met with three of the four judges overseeing the claims. Merck rose $1.13, or 2.1 percent, to $55.90.

Walt Disney & Co. shares fell 89 cents, or 2.7 percent, to $32.74 after the entertainment company said late Thursday fiscal fourth-quarter profit rose 12 percent, driven by sports network ESPN and turnout at its U.S. theme parks. However, executives remain concerned about a Hollywood writers strike that began this week.

Declining shares led advancers by a better than 2 to 1 ratio on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume came to 1.62 billion shares, down from 2.17 billion shares Thursday.

Overseas, Japan's Nikkei stock average closed down 1.19 percent and Hong Kong's Hang Seng index rose 0.08 percent. Britain's FTSE 100 was down 1.21 percent, Germany's DAX index fell 0.09 percent, and France's CAC-40 shed 1.91 percent.