Stocks Plunge as Global Selloff Spreads to U.S.

Updated from 9:23 a.m. EDT

Following precipitous declines in the major world indices, stocks on Wall Street were plummeting at the open Friday, as fear of a global economic slowdown intensified.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 440 points at 8252, and the S&P 500 gave back 44 points to 864. The Nasdaq tumbled 97 points to 1507.

Before trading began, futures on the major indices hit the lowest levels permitted. Premarket futures are limit-down, meaning that they cannot exceed a given loss. In a sign of deep investor trepidation, futures for the S&P 500, the Dow and the Nasdaq had all been trading with their maximum permissible losses.

"Right now it's panic selling. Where it will end, nobody knows," said Doug Roberts, chief investment officer at ChannelCapitalResearch.com. He said that funds are continuing to liquidate and broad selloffs in overseas markets are stoking investor fear. It's too soon to tell whether the market is reaching capitulation levels, he said.

The credit crunch was once again in focus. Bloomberg reported that the Treasury Department was ready to invest in regional banks as part of a $250 billion effort to capitalize banks. The Treasury already spent $125 billion on nine of the biggest U.S. banks.

Meanwhile, U.S. equities weren't the only asset class in deep trouble during the final session of the week. Crude oil was dropping $4.32 to $63.52 a barrel, despite an announcement by OPEC that it would reduce production by 1.5 million barrels a day in an effort to support falling prices. Gold was losing $9 to $705.70 an ounce.

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