Stocks Battered Again

The selling that has engulfed the stock market since mid-July took hold again on Wednesday, sending stocks to four-month lows amid renewed concerns over the health of the credit markets.

A Merrill Lynch sell rating on Countrywide Financial was just the latest news fueling panic about a spreading crisis that began in the subprime mortgage market. The Dow turned a 90-point gain at one point into a 167-point loss by the close.

VMware continued to be one of the few standouts, gaining 13% for a two-day gain of nearly 100% for the EMC spinoff.

But once again, most of the big movers were to the downside, led by a pair of disappointing earnings reports from Agilent and Applied Materials .

Amtech , Coleman Cable and Tower Semi were other earnings losers.

In late trading, Network Appliance was a bright spot, jumping 6% after raising guidance.

The Nasdaq fell 40 to 2458, the S&P 500 lost 19 to 1406, and the Dow tumbled 167 to 12,861. Volume rose to 4.2 billion shares on the NYSE, and 2.3 billion on the Nasdaq. Declining issues led by a 27-5 margin on the NYSE, and by 21-9 margin on the Nasdaq. Downside volume was 86% on the NYSE, and 84% on the Nasdaq. New highs-new lows were 10-700 on the NYSE, and 40-209 on the Nasdaq.

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