Stocks Plunge as Rates Rise

Stocks plunged for a third straight day Thursday after long-term treasury yields soared above 5% for the first time since last summer.

The sell-off began Tuesday after comments from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke suggested that the Fed isn’t inclined to cut interest rates to boost the economy, and stronger than expected economic data and rising inflation pressures have fueled fears that interest rates may be headed higher. A bearish call on bonds today by fund manager Bill Gross exacerbated selling in both the bond and equity markets.

The major indexes all lost 1.5% or more Thursday, and breadth was overwhelmingly to the downside on the NYSE and Nasdaq stock exchanges.

Apple investors were unfazed after the stock edged higher on bullish comments from Piper Jaffray, and ADC Telecom was a fraction higher on a better than expected earnings report.

But Google reversed course after hitting an all-time high early in the day, and other tech bellwethers lost 2% or more.

Books-A-Million gained on a big one-time dividend payout.

Activision fell on stock option issues.

Agilent lost ground on its guidance, and CommTech , IDT , SAIC , SeaChange and Volt fell on their results.

The Nasdaq tumbled 45 to 2541, the S&P 500 shed 26 to 1490, and the Dow plunged 199 to 13,266. Volume rose to 3.54 billion shares on the NYSE, and 2.43 billion on the Nasdaq. Declining issues led by a 30-3 margin on the NYSE, and 24-7 on the Nasdaq. Downside volume was 93% on the NYSE, and 86% on the Nasdaq. New highs-new lows were 40-105 on the NYSE, and 87-91 on the Nasdaq.

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