Countrywide Financial's

( CFC) dramatic fall crushed loads of financial stocks Thursday even as a number of names managed to climb on positive news.

Countrywide stock, which plummeted Weenesday on a

Merrill Lynch downgrade to sell

, took another beating on

bankruptcy fears

as the Calabasas, Calif., lender drew down its $11.5 billion credit line. Moody's and Fitch

cut Countrywide's rating

in response. Shares were down starkly in extremely heavy action before retreating to a 13.2% loss at $18.49.

Among the reams of financial stocks pulled down with Countrywide was online broker


(ETFC) - Get Report

, recently down 8.3% in furious trading. Commodities exchange


( NMX) slid 10.4%; lender


(CIT) - Get Report

sank 7.5%; and broker

Goldman Sachs

(GS) - Get Report

was off 0.8% at $163.54 in heavier-than-usual trading.

On the other hand,

First Charter

(FCTR) - Get Report

soared 37.8% after the Charlotte, N.C., bank

agreed to sell itself


Fifth Third Bancorp

(FITB) - Get Report

for $31 a share in stock and cash -- a 53% premium to its latest close. The $1.1 billion deal should complete in the first quarter of next year. First Charter shares jumped $7.65 to $27.90.

Shares of Fifth Third, which was cut to underperform at Friedman Billings, shed $1.01, or 2.7%, to $36.37.

Friedman upgraded

KKR Financial


to outperform, however, after the San Francisco-based firm expressed belief that it has "ample liquidity" to meet its financial obligations and to keep its core business running. The company was in free fall yesterday after


about $5.1 billion in residential-mortgage loans, but today shares surged 19.4% to $12.56 in partial recovery.

Among other positive analyst calls,

Washington Mutual

(WM) - Get Report

was upped to buy at Punk Ziegel, and a Citigroup analyst said


( SOV) has scant exposure to subprime-mortgage and alt-A loans. It, too, garnered a buy rating. Shares of the companies rose 7.5% to $35.01 and 4% to $17.25, respectively.

More broadly, the


Financial Sector Index came up for air mid-afternoon after foundering in negative territory for most of the day. The tracker leapt 1.1% to 8,620.84. The KBW Index, which had a better day overall, was recently surging 2.63 points, or 2.6%, to 104.23.