Updated from 1:29 p.m. EDT

A number of financial stocks were hit with downgrades Friday as the sector slid downward in near synchronization with the broad indices.

Blackstone

(BX) - Get Report

was an exception, however,

launching with a bang

today in its initial public offering. The asset manager priced some 133.3 million shares at $31 apiece -- the high end of its expected range -- and closed up 13.1% to $35.06.

New York investment bank

Greenhill

(GHL) - Get Report

was upped to outperform from market perform at Wachovia, boosting shares by 4.7% to $68.48, and

Corus Bankshares

( CORS) added 5.4% on word of a special $1-per-share cash dividend to holders of record as of July 18. Shares of the Chicago-based bank closed up 89 cents to $17.25.

Among other scarce financial winners today, student lender

First Marblehead

(FMD)

gained 3.8% to $40.66; tax preparer

H&R Block

(HRB) - Get Report

tacked on 2.3% to $22.54; and insurer

Sun Life Financial

(SLF) - Get Report

added 1.3% to $47.33.

But the

NYSE

Financial Sector Index plunged 138.76 points, or 1.4%, to 9640.41. The KBW Bank Index was off 1.7% at 113.56. Its components include Boston's

State Street

(STT) - Get Report

, which lost 1.6% to $68.32 despite adding a penny to its per-share dividend at 22 cents.

Elsewhere,

PrivateBancorp

(PVTB)

tumbled 5.4% to $28.42 after Robert W. Baird cut the Chicago bank to neutral from outperform. Meanwhile, Jefferies and Piper Jaffray respectively doled out downgrades to nonprime auto-finance firm

United Panam Financial

(UPFC)

, which shed 5.4%, and insurer

Fidelity National Financial

(FNF) - Get Report

, off 2.1%.

Bear Stearns

( BSC) also swung lower after

offering $3.2 billion

in secured financing in order to save two struggling Bear hedge funds. Creditor

Merrill Lynch

( MER)

seized collateral assets

from the funds last week. Bear shares closed down $2.06, or 1.4%, to $143.75. Merrill dropped 3.2% to $84.48.

Also among the multitudes of falling financial stocks were brokers

Charles Schwab

(SCHW) - Get Report

, down 3.3%, and

Friedman Billings

(FBR)

, down 4%, as well as asset manager

Fortress Investment Group

(FIG)

, down 6.3%.