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Despite a sleepy performance on Friday, Wall Street was pounded by European debt fears in the worst week since September.
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The Dow, S&P and Nasdaq all finished the shortened trading week by more than 4.7% to the downside, and have now been down for two weeks in a row. Indeed, the Dow has plunged close to 1000 points in that time, while the Nasdaq has shed more than 10%. All three have now fallen deep into the red for the year after a short-lived Fall rally.
The markets have been captivated by worries over Europe's sovereign debt crisis. Financial stocks have taken a particularly strong beating over the past week as worries have stirred over the global financial systems' exposure to the debt crisis. For example, JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM) and Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) -- America's two biggest banks by assets -- were both pummeled, far under-performing the broader markets.
Many economically-sensitive energy and materials stocks were slammed on the week too.
Adding to the fears on Friday, Belgium's credit rating was sliced one notch to AA from AA+ by Standard & Poor's, while Moody's slashed Hungary's debt rating into junk status late Thursday.
"While not really a market-moving event, the downgrading of Hungarian bonds to junk status still served to highlight that the same old European debt problems remain," David Jones, chief market strategist at IG Index wrote in an e-mail.
Meanwhile Italy -- Europe's third-largest Economy -- was forced to pay an average yield of 6.5% on a roughly $10.7 billion auction of six-year bonds, far higher than the 3.5% it paid at its October auction, signaling a much higher risk premium.
As a result, the yields on its 10-year bond moved even higher above the 7% level. While the 7% mark does not have any technical significance, it is symbolically important because countries like Greece needed bailouts around that level as borrowing costs spiked, and refinancing on the private market became difficult.
European blue chips jumped 1%, while the euro fell 0.76% to $1.324.
On the corporate front, AT&T (NYSE:T) said Thursday it would take a $4 billion charge to its fourth-quarter earnings as a preparation for a potential failure of its $39 billion acquisition of Deutsche Telekom's T-Mobile.
There are no major U.S. economic releases slated for release on Friday.
Energy markets were mixed.
The benchmark crude oil contract traded in New York rose $1.03, or 1.1%, to $97.20 a barrel. Wholesale RBOB gasoline slipped less than a penny, or 0.15%, to $2.51 a gallon.
In metals, gold dropped $2.30, or 0.14%, to $1,697 a troy ounce. The yield on U.S. government debt ticked higher. The benchmark 10-year note yields 1.939% from 1.883%.
European blue chips jumped 1.4%, the English FTSE 100 climbed 1.4% to 5,198 and the German DAX rose 1.7% to 5,421.
In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 edged lower by 0.06% to 8,160 and the Chinese Hang Seng tumbled 1.4% to 17,689.