NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Stocks decayed throughout Tuesday's session and the Dow closed below the 11,000 mark, as investors sold off on fears of a contagion spreading throughout Europe after Standard & Poor's downgraded Greek debt to junk status and docked Portugal's rating down by two notches.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged 213 points, or 1.9%, to 10,992. The S&P 500 slid 28 points, or 2.3%, to 1184, and the Nasdaq shed 51 points, or 2%, at 2471.
U.S. stocks tumbled deep into negative territory, spurring a flight to safe assets as Standard & Poor's downgraded Greece's debt to junk status and lowered Portugal's credit rating by two notches to A- from A+."Everyone has a fear it'll trigger some kind of reaction, like it's the subprime mortgage crisis of Europe. There's the Goldman (GS) overhang as well and the two are combining [to lead the market lower]," said Doug Roberts, chief investment strategist at ChannelCapitalResearch.com, who noted the market's recent run up as further incentive for profit-taking. "We thought we had this thing kind of stabilized, and all of a sudden it's popping. We thought this thing was coming to an end, but now it's like waiting for another shoe to drop." Overseas, Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 1.5% while Japan's Nikkei rose 0.4%. The FTSE in London lost 2.6%, and the DAX in Frankfurt shed 2.7%. Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Avalon Partners, acknowledged that the market is ripe for a pullback but believes Greek contagion fears will only exert short-term pressure on the market. "Earlier we had strong consumer data and good earnings reports from Ford (F), DuPont (DD) and UPS (UPS), but even more important is what these companies have been saying about the strength of the economy," Cardillo said. "Even these downgrades eroded earlier gains, we have Fed decision tomorrow afternoon, which may rephrase the 'extended period language' and give a better assessment of the economy. Plus we have the GDP report on Friday," he said, adding, "I just don't think the market is ready to move into a steeper pullback. I think this weakness will probably be short-term." Goldman Sachs executives are testifying before the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations during a hearing on the firm's role in the financial crisis. Late Monday, Democrats failed to get the 60 votes needed to move forward with the financial reform bill.
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