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Friday's Financial Winners & Losers

Updated from 2:44 p.m. EDT with new stock prices

Government probes and various other crushing news helped pull financial stocks even lower than the waffling broad market Friday.

Merrill Lynch (MER) was once again on the downswing, after The Wall Street Journal reported that the Securities and Exchange Commission is looking into its asset-valuation practices. Regulators want to know exactly how much the New York broker knew regarding its mortgage difficulties vs. what it had disclosed to investors over the summer. Merrill's exposure to bad debt ultimately induced colossal third-quarter writedowns, as it reported last week.

Merrill shares slid 7.9% as Citigroup (C) gave up 2% and Goldman Sachs (GS) shed 4.4% on whispers of big writedowns of their own.

Elsewhere, Washington Mutual (WM) and First American (FAF) were still declining a day after New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo announced that he had sued First American unit eAppraiseIT for allegedly scheming with WaMu to inflate house appraisals. WaMu said it halted its relationship with eAppraiseIT pending further internal investigation.

First American shares were off 0.3% to $30.40. WaMu tumbled 7.5% to $23.81, joining with Citi to weigh on the KBW Bank Index, which was falling 0.3% to 100.86.

Ambac Financial (ABK), meanwhile, lost 20.5% after Goldman cut the stock to neutral from buy, citing concerns that the financial guaranty insurer might need to raise more capital. Shares of the New York firm were down $6.06 to $23.51.

National Financial Partners (NFP), a New York-based insurance broker, surrendered 4.9% to $50.37, after estimating third-quarter "cash" earnings of 74 cents to 75 cents a share. That would come in at least 8 cents short of the average analyst estimate, according to Thomson Financial.

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