Wall Street Hammered by European, Economic Woes; Dow Slides for Fifth Day

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The markets tumbled on Tuesday after renewed worries about Europe’s debt crisis and ongoing economic concerns sent traders dashing out of equities and commodities in search of shelter.

Today's Markets

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dipped 214 points, or 1.7%, to 12716, the S&P 500 fell 23.6 points, or 1.7%, to 1359 and the Nasdaq Composite skidded 55.9 points, or 1.8%, to 2991.

The blue chips have fallen for five days in a row, the longest losing streak since August. Meanwhile, the broader S&P 500 is having its longest rout since November.

The biggest drags on the Dow on a point basis were Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT) and IBM(NYSE:IBM) Chevron (NYSE:CVX) and Boeing (NYSE:BA).  Hewlett-Packard was the only component to end in the green.

In a sign of the uneasiness, the VIX, sometimes referred to as Wall Street's fear gauge, surged 8.3%. The number of trades in declining shares on the New York Stock Exchange outpaced those in advancing shares by a ratio of nine-to-one, according to data compiled by FOX Business.The S&P 500 broke its 50-day-moving average for the first time since December. Market participants generally pay close attention to technical levels on the S&P.

Exchanges across Europe were under intense selling pressure as well. Germany's DAX shed 2.5%, England's FTSE 100 dropped 2.2% and Italy's MIB plunged 5%. Traders have once again started to focus on debt yields in eurozone countries that have have public debt levels, paying particularly close attention to Spain and Italy.

The yield on Italy's 10-year note jumped 0.12-percentage point on the day, while the yield on similar notes in Spain climbed 0.18-percentage point. The fear is that as the yields rise, borrowing costs inherently go up, meaning it becomes more challenging for the countries to cut down their debt loads. Unlike smaller countries like Greece, bailing out bigger players would be considerably more costly, and a debt default could be painful to the euro currency bloc and financial markets across the globe.

At the same time, traders continued moving into the safety of Treasury bonds. The yield on the 10-year plummeted 0.047-percentage point to 1.988% and is now at its lowest level since early March. As traders bid up the asset, the yield falls.

Earnings season kicks off after the closing bell on Tuesday. Aluminum giant Alcoa (NYSE:AA) is expected to post a four cent per share quarterly loss on revenue of $5.8 billion.

In energy markets, U.S. crude has retreated nearly 8% from its 2012 high of $109.77 a barrel as tension has calmed somewhat between Western states and Iran and supplies have swelled. The benchmark contract traded in New York stumbled $1.44, or 1.4%, to $101.02 a barrel. New York Harbor wholesale gasoline dipped 5 cents, or 1.4%, to $3.25 a gallon.

In metals, gold jumped $16.80, or 1%, to $1,661 a troy ounce.

Corporate News

Best Buy (NYSE:BBY) said its Chief Executive Officer Brian Dunn has resigned.

Foreign Markets 

European blue chips sold off by 3%, the English FTSE 100 slumped 2.2% to 5596 and the German DAX dropped 2.5% to 6606.

In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 slipped 0.09% to 9538 and the Chinese Hang Seng shed 1.2% to 20356.