Updated from 10:54 a.m. EDT

An early selloff in New York stocks continued to grow midday Thursday as investors fled stocks following several downgrades in the financial sector.

The

Dow Jones Industrial Average

was sliding 221 points to 11,590, and the

S&P 500

was down 25 points at 1296. The

Nasdaq

lost 60 points to 2340.

The financial sector was again in focus, in part because Goldman Sachs lowered its ratings on U.S. investment banks to neutral from attractive, a report said. Goldman added

Citigroup

(C) - Get Report

to its "conviction sell" list, predicting $8.9 billion in second-quarter writedowns for Citi. Shares were dropping 5%.

Merrill Lynch

(MER)

also sold off after Bernstein cut its estimates on the brokerage, citing concerns about more writedowns.

The financial sector was suffering broadly at the hands of the downgrades.

Capitol One

(COF) - Get Report

and

Barclays

(BCS) - Get Report

were hit especially hard, down as much as 5% in early trading.

Today's selloff is due primarily to analysts' reduced expectations for the financials' second-quarter earnings, said Stuart Freeman, chief equity strategist at Wachovia Securities. "Obviously investors have been selling this news over and over again for at least a year now," he said. Freeman predicted a bottom for the market in the coming month as investors begin to look ahead to 2009 and a return to profitability. "It's going to be a slow, u

-shaped trudge back out of this," he said.

Goldman didn't stop with the financials, also lowering its opinion of

General Motors

(GM) - Get Report

. Losing 11%, GM, along with fellow Dow component Citi, led the index downward. Every Dow stock but

Coca-Cola

(KO) - Get Report

was losing ground.

Weighing on the tech sector was

Research In Motion

(RIMM)

, which said after the previous session's close that it

didn't meet first-quarter expectations

before then offering a soft outlook. Shares of the Blackberry maker were down 12%.

Similarly, business software seller

Oracle

(ORCL) - Get Report

dropped 3.6% after

its outlook failed to impress investors

. Fourth-quarter results were good, but looking to the current quarter, Oracle cautioned that comparisons would be difficult.

Among the new day's earnings,

Lennar

(LEN) - Get Report

, the nation's second-largest homebuilder after

D.R. Horton

(DHI) - Get Report

, reported another quarterly loss, although a narrower one than in the year-ago quarter. Prices for homes, along with orders, fell off.

Packaged food maker

ConAgra

(CAG) - Get Report

also beat on earnings thanks to a solid performance by its trading and merchandising business, but delivered guidance that fell below consensus estimates.

Separately, a report in

The Wall Street Journal

said Budweiser maker

Anheuser-Busch

(BUD) - Get Report

is set to turn down InBev of Belgium's $46 billion takeover attempt. Instead, the company will try to sell some assets to help lift its stock price.

Tire supplier

Goodyear

(GT) - Get Report

announced this morning that it would attempt to cut costs by more than $2 billion by 2009 and work to capitalize on global growth opportunities.

In one bright spot, gold miners

Kinross

(KGC) - Get Report

and

Goldcorp

(GG)

led a rally in the materials stocks.

As for the data, the government issued its final reading on first-quarter gross domestic product, saying the economy grew 1% between January and March. That met estimates and was slightly above the 0.9% preliminary figure. Weekly initial jobless claims were little changed at 384,000, but were about 9,000 more than expected.

The National Association of Realtors said

existing-home sales in May

rose to an annualized rate of 5 million from 4.99 million in April. The median price of an existing-home dropped 6.3% year over year to $208,600.

Commodity prices were for the most part higher. Oil was up $4.06 at $138.61 a barrel, and gold was jumping $33.90 to $916.20 an ounce. The dollar was down against the euro, the yen and the British pound.

"The recovery from the March lows to the May highs was a bear-market rally," said Phil Roth, chief technical market analyst at Miller Tabak. "I'm expecting another downleg." In a rally, he said, a decline in stock price should be followed by a decline in commodity prices, then a decline in long-term interest rates. "We're in step one" of that process, he said.

"Today is kind of wacky," said Roth. "The dollar is getting blasted. ... I can't find a commodity that's down."

Long-dated Treasury securities were rising slightly, with the 10-year up 14/32 in price, yielding 4.05%, and the 30-year bond adding 12/32 to yield 4.62%.

Overseas, most major markets fell. In Europe, London's FTSE and Frankfurt's DAX each surrendered more than 2%. Tokyo's Nikkei and Hong Kong's Hang Seng also pulled back.