U.S. Stocks Drop as Recession Fears Build

Updated from 9:38 a.m. EDT

U.S. stocks opened to the downside Monday as traders continued to worry about the extent and duration of a potential global recession.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was losing 144 points to 8235, and the S&P 500 was off 17 points at 859. The Nasdaq was lower by 26 points at 1526.

On Friday, stocks closed on the downside as funds continued a forced liquidation of their investments and traders grappled with growing fears of a worldwide economic downturn.

As Monday's session began, financial firms, major players in the global crisis, were in focus. The Financial Times Web site reported that Goldman Sachs ( GS) chief Lloyd Blankfein approached Citigroup ( C) head Vikram Pandit about a merger. Pandit turned down the proposal, which was made in September, the report said.

Elsewhere on the merger front, CenturyTel ( CTL) reached an agreement to acquire Embarq ( EQ) in a stock swap the companies are valuing at around $11.6 billion.

Also, as the Treasury's $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program to buy equity stakes in troubled banks got underway, several companies announced their participation in the initiative. Among them, KeyCorp ( KEY) and Huntington Bancshares ( HBAN) announced they would take part in the Treasury Department's plan to buy stock in banks facing liquidity troubles.

SunTrust ( STI), meanwhile, said it would slash its dividend 30% and apply to sell stock and warrants to the Treasury.

Also making headlines was conglomerate Loews Corp. ( L), which said it will buy $1.25 billion of preferred stock in insurer CNA Financial ( CNA). Loews owns a 90% stake in CNA, which swung to a third-quarter loss because of a downturn in its investment portfolio and hurricane-related claims.

The state of the U.S. automakers was once again looking precarious. Bloomberg reported that General Motors ( GM) requested support from the Treasury Department to help it merge with Chrysler.

As for corporate earnings, telecom-services provider Verizon ( VZ) announced quarterly results that were in line with Wall Street's estimates.

Looking at the day's economic data, the Census Bureau is expected to roll out its new home sales figures for September.

In the realm of commodities, crude oil was losing $1.23 to $62.92 a barrel. Gold was giving back $8.40 to $721.90 an ounce.

Longer-dated U.S. Treasury securities were mixed. The 10-year was down 2/32 to yield 3.68%, and the 30-year was gaining 26/32, yielding 4.02%.

The dollar was continuing the wild swings seen at the end of last week, making big gains against the euro and pound but taking sharp losses vs. the yen. The euro was down 1.5% to $1.24, and the pound was plummeting 3% to $1.59. Against the yen, the dollar was sliding 1.2%.

Abroad, European exchanges, including the FTSE in London and the DAX in Frankfurt, were taking heavy losses. Asian markets, such as Japan's Nikkei and Hong Kong's Hang Seng, closed on the downside.

( Photo gallery: Trading Faces)