Stocks Plunge as Credit Woes Spread

Stocks closed at new lows for the year Thursday after the eight-month-old credit crisis claimed a fresh round of victims.

A default at Thornburg Mortgage cut shares of the jumbo mortgage lender in half, and other banks began cutting back on mortgage portfolios and liquidating positions as credit market troubles began to spread to safer agency-backed securities.

The news sent stocks plunging even as other data were favorable, including better than expected retail sales and the third straight improvement that returned pending home sales to breakeven.

Apple and Research In Motion fell 3% each amid fears that Apple’s iPhone plans will ratchet up competition between the two.

Google continued to lose ground, off 3.4% to a new 52-week low of $432.70, down from a 52-week high of $747.24.

Oracle continued to rise on optimism that it will meet estimates later this month, up 2.3%.

Juniper lost 5% after announcing a $1 billion share buyback plan and giving slightly lower than expected financial guidance.

Smith Micro and Comtech jumped on their results, while Orbitz tumbled on its earnings report.

The Nasdaq fell 52 to 2220, the S&P lost 29 to 1304, and the Dow fell 214 to 12,040. Volume rose to 4.32 billion shares on the NYSE, and 2.25 billion on the Nasdaq. Decliners led by a 29-4 margin on the NYSE, and 23-5 on the Nasdaq. Downside volume was 94% on the NYSE, and 86% on the Nasdaq. New highs-new lows were 36-307 on the NYSE, and 41-337 on the Nasdaq.

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