Wall Street stocks slide as Spain, Italy downgraded

October 7, 2011 10:33 AM49 commentsViews: 179

Wall Street stocks slide as Spain, Italy downgraded

Stocks declined on Friday after downgrades of Spain’s and Italy’s credit ratings underscored worries about the European debt crisis, overshadowing better-than-expected U.S. jobs data.

The downgrades by Fitch came prior to a European summit on Sunday that is aimed at shoring up the region’s financial sector.

Stocks are set to end the week higher, with the S&P 500 on track for a gain of about 2 percent. The index is still down about 15 percent since its late-April high.

U.S. stocks gained this week after European leaders showed more determination to fix problem banks and U.S. data pointed to strength in the services sector and other parts of the economy.

Worries about the euro zone debt crisis have hit the market hard in recent months, along with concern about stalling economic growth in the United States and China.

Bank shares were among the top decliners, with the S&P financial index <.SPX> down 3.2 percent. Shares of Morgan Stanley , which have been hurt recently by fears of its exposure to European banks, dropped 5.9 percent to $14.28 while shares of Bank of America tumbled 5.6 percent to $5.93.

The Labor Department said employers added more jobs than analysts expected last month. Nonfarm payrolls data for July and August also were revised upward.

“The employment data was viewed as being relatively good, but this issue in Europe keeps rearing its head. We just can’t seem to escape Europe’s debt crisis,” said Thomas Villalta, portfolio manager for Jones Villalta Asset Management in Austin, Texas.

Fitch cut Spain’s credit ratings by two notches, just a few minutes after downgrading Italy, saying the intensification of the euro zone debt crisis has had a negative impact on the entire region.

While the U.S. unemployment rate held steady at 9.1 percent, the government report supported other data that have eased fears the U.S. economy was heading into another recession.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> was down 51.43 points, or 0.46 percent, at 11,071.90. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index <.SPX> was down 12.49 points, or 1.07 percent, at 1,152.48. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> was down 32.64 points, or 1.30 percent, at 2,474.18.

From a technical perspective, the S&P 500 has been trapped in a range in the past few months, deteriorating into lower lows. The index’s wide range is about 1,100 to 1,250.

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