Dow skids 600, worst day since credit crisis

The Dow closed down 634 points, the S&P 500 lost 79 points, and the Nasdaq ended 174 points lower. For every stock that rose at the New York Stock Exchange, more than 69 fell.

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    Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Monday, Aug. 8, 2011 in New York. The Dow plunged more than 600 points, following S&P's downgrade of the US credit rating on Friday.
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By JeeYeon Park, CNBC.com

Stocks took a sharp nosedive in another choppy day Monday to finish at session lows as investors fled from risky assets following S&P's downgrade of U.S.'s credit rating last week in addition to ongoing economic jitters.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged 634.76 points, or 5.55 percent, to finish at 10,809.85, well-below the psychologically-significant 11,000 mark. The move marks the blue-chip index's biggest point and percent drop since Dec. 1, 2008.

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BofA and Alcoa were the top laggards on the index.

The S&P 500 plummeted 79.92 points, or 6.66 percent, to close at 1,119.46, its lowest close since Sept. 10, 2010.

Nasdaq sank 174.72 points, or 6.90 percent, to end at 2,357.69, its lowest close since October 4, 2010.

August is already on track to be the worst month for the S&P and Nasdaq since Oct. 2008.

The CBOE Volatility Index, widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, spiked above 40 to touch its highest level since Mar. 2009.

All 10 S&P sectors were lower, led by banks, energy and materials. Financials have plunged more than 20 percent this year.

“Once we took out Friday’s lows, it was like a trapdoor opened,” Art Cashin, director of floor operations at UBS Financial Services told CNBC. “This is very heavy volume again and that tells me that we’ve got people liquidating to raise cash.

Moody's said while they are maintaining the U.S.'s AAA status, the agency said it has doubts over the long-term enforceability of the budget cuts already decided by Congress.

This comes after Standard & Poor's move to downgrade U.S.'s rating to AA-plus from AAA last Friday after a wild week for stocks—its worst in more than two years.

And in its latest move, S&P also lowered Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Federal Home Loan Bank's debt to AA-plus from AAA.

S&P came in for significant criticism from U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who said the rating agency showed "terrible judgment" in lowering the U.S. government’s credit rating.

Meanwhile, President Obama said financial markets around the world "still believe our credit is AAA and the world's investors agree," although his speech did little to cheer up the market.

Meanwhile, S&P also revised Berkshire Hathaway's rating outlook to "negative" from "stable."

Incidentally, this comes after Warren Buffett said S&P's downgrade of the U.S. "doesn't make sense" and told CNBC he was not changing his mind about Treasurys based on S&P's downgrade.

Among commodities, U.S. light, sweet crude fell sharply to settle at $81.31 a barrel, the lowest level since Nov. 2010. Gold surged to a record high above $1,700 an ounce as investors flocked to the precious metal as a safe-haven play. JPMorgan said gold prices could soar as much as $2,500 an ounce by year-end on "very high" volatility.

Bank stocks led the market deep into the red, led Bank of America, which sank more than 20 percent. AIG said it planning to sue the bank to recover more than $10 billion in losses on $28 billion of investment in mortgage-backed securities.

Meanwhile, widely-followed hedge fund manager David Tepper of Appaloosa Management said he is selling his BofA and Wells Fargo stakes and decreasing his position on Citigroup. And influential financial analyst Mike Mayo downgraded BofA stock to "underperform" from "outperform."

Verizon declined after almost 45,000 employees went out on strike over the weekend amid a contract dispute.

McDonald's slipped even after the fast-food chain posted a 5.1 percent sales gain at established stores.

Coca-Cola ended lower even after Goldman Sachs added the beverage giant to its "conviction buy list." And P&G also finished down after Bernstein upgraded the consumer goods manufacturer to "outperform" from "market perform." The two companies were among the only stocks that struggled to stay higher earlier in the session.

Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway unit made a $3.24 billion buyout offer for Transatlantic Holdings, topping two rival bids from Allied World Assurance Company and Validus.

European shares sank finish at two-year lows, despite an announcement from the ECB that it was entering the bond market to buy Italian and Spanish sovereign debt.

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