Concerns about the European debt crisis slammed stocks Monday, shaving at least 1 percent off the major indexes.
Just after midday the Dow Jones industrial average was down 1.2 percent, while the broader S&P 500 shed 1.7 percent and the tech-heavy Nasdaq lost 1.9 percent.
Europe's crisis, and especially worries about Spanish banks, held investors in thrall again. Spain officially asked the European Union for help to shore up its banks, which have been hit hard by rising bad loans caused by a slumping real estate market. There was very little detail about how much aid Spain would be requesting, and the uncertainty raised concerns among investors.
The news from Spain comes days before European Union officials are set to meet to discuss how to staunch the debt crisis in Europe that threatens to push the continent back into recession and perhaps stifle growth in the U.S., China and other parts of the world. Investors are concerned that EU officials will not be able to come up with a deal to restore confidence in the 17-nation eurozone's ability to manage its finances.
Besides Spanish banks, the EU summit Thursday and Friday was also set to look at Greece's problems and discuss the tough austerity package imposed on it as a condition for economic aid. But those planned discussions were dealt a setback with news that both Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and incoming Finance Minister Vassilis Rapanos would miss the summit due to health problems.
In U.S. markets, U.S. bank stocks felt the brunt of the rising anxiety as investors fled them amid worries about their exposure to European banks.