Stocks Fall on Cyprus Contagion Fears, J.C. Penney Pops

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- U.S stock slumped on Monday as investors considered that the harsh bailout plan announced for Cyprus could be enacted in other eurozone countries to recapitalize distressed banks.

The S&P 500 slipped 0.55% to 1,551.10.

J.C. Penney ( JCP) jumped the most in six months gaining 6.2% to $16.44 after Omar Saad of ISI Group, a research firm, said in a client note that the department store chain may be able to boost its share price by subleting its properties to other businesses, much like a REIT.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average slumped 62.05 points, or 0.43%, to 14,452.06 after ending its longest winning streak on Friday in nearly 17 years. The Nasdaq lost 0.35% to close at 3,237.59.

Eurozone finance ministers agreed Saturday on a bailout plan for Cyprus that requires a levy of a 9.9% tax on bank accounts with balances above €100,000 and those with less that amount to be taxed at a 6.75% to raise €5.8 billion for the near-bankrupt nation. In effect, the bailout calls on depositors to help recapitalize their banks and take losses in process.

Speculation that Spain and Italy could need similar bailouts was sparking concern that depositors large and small will withdraw money from eurozone banks. Major indices throughout Europe and Asia dropped.

"I think the main message in our mind is: is that situation a cause for us to panic over? We would say no, but perhaps it's something to take pause over," said Cameron Hinds, region chief investment officer for Wells Fargo Private Bank. "I think the U.S. markets have handled it pretty well at this point."

"Cyprus is a tiny country and the Troika (European Union, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank) would probably be disinclined to experiment'' with depositors, John Higgins, senior markets economist at London-based Capital Economics said in a note Monday.

"Yet none of this may reassure depositors in other beleaguered countries of the euro-zone,'' Higgins added. "If the crisis in the region intensifies, queues outside banks are likely to form that much quicker."

"Every euro area finance minister should be reminded, daily, that history tells us that monetary unions die as a result of bank runs," Paul Donovan, managing director of global economics at UBS in London, said in a note Monday.

UBS's Donovan isn't forecasting a eurozone break up yet "the bailout of Cyprus over this weekend has not helped that conviction ... and contagion risks are higher as a result of the terms of the bailout."

The FTSE 100 in London settled down 0.49% and the DAX in Germany shed 0.4%.

Japan's Nikkei 225 settled behind by 2.71% and Hong Kong's Hang Seng index closed lower by 2%.

Investors piled into gold, Treasuries and the U.S. dollar as eurozone contagion fears spurred safe-haven buying.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury yield skidded to 2.023% as prices surged by 10/32 and the dollar was jumping 0.61%, according to the U.S. dollar index.

Gold for April delivery surged $12 to settle $1,604.60 an ounce at the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange.

May crude oil futures were up 29 cents to finish at $93.74 a barrel, hit by the stronger the dollar.

Intuitive Surgical ( ISRG) shares bounced up 5.7% to $485.52 as shares recovered from four sessions of losses to become a top performer in the S&P 500 after a group of surgeons defended the company's robotic surgery devices for minimally-invasive surgeries.

James Breeden, president of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has questioned the advantages of the products over alternatives even as Canaccord Genuity analyst Jason Mills raised Intuitive Surgical to "buy" from "hold," referencing positive comments from another group of surgeons who favor minimally-invasive technologies.

Best Buy ( BBY) shares tacked on 3.2% to $22.13 after JP Morgan analyst Christopher Horvers reinitiated coverage of the Richfield, Minn.-based consumer electronics giant to overweight with a $29 price target, expressing confidence in the company's new management and turnaround efforts.

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Andrea Tse.

Joe Deaux in New York contributed to this report

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