Stocks fell on Thursday as concerns about JP Morgan's trading loss, a criminal probe into banks in London and a surprise Supreme Court ruling upholding a landmark healthcare law played into a plethora of woes about Europe.
The market tanked early after a spokesman for the German finance minister labeled as untrue a report that Germany could be willing to move sooner than expected to accept shared liability of euro zone debt. The statement enforced the view that a summit of European leaders that began on Thursday would achieve little.
Losses accelerated after a divided U.S. Supreme Court backed the centerpiece of President Barack Obama's signature healthcare overhaul law that requires that most Americans to get insurance by 2014 or face a penalty. The decision surprised many investors who see the law as a hallmark of a business unfriendly administration. "There are so many actionable events," said Robert Francello, head of equity trading for Apex Capital in San Francisco. "This should be volatile all day, so we'll see how we finish. It's a long day."
The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 127.45 points, or 1.01 percent, to 12,499.56. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index fell 12.94 points, or 0.97 percent, to 1,318.91. The Nasdaq Composite Index lost 39.33 points, or 1.37 percent, to 2,835.99.
The Morgan Stanley healthcare payor index fell 0.9 percent after trading erratically following the ruling. Individual stocks moved in a wide range. Insurers WellPoint fell 6.4 percent to $65.01 but Centene rose 3.4 percent $30.92. But for providers of healthcare, the affirmation represents millions of potential new patients, either through private plans or the government's Medicaid program for the poor. Some, however, would be under added pressure to enact more savings, which could cut into revenues. "Right now there is a little bit confusion about what the effect is going to be on these stocks," said Giri Cherukuri, head trader at OakBrook Investments.
Shares of JPMorgan Chase & Co dropped 5 percent to $35.06 after a New York Times report projecting that losses from a recent botched trade could reach $9 billion, more than four times the original estimate.
U.S.-traded shares of Barclays fell 16 percent after Britain said it had brought in the fraud squad to investigate possible crimes over attempts to manipulate lending rates, a scandal that is expected to spread to other banks. Lloyds fell 6 percent to $1.82 in New York.
Adding to the gloom in finance, Citi Investment Research posted a bearish note on several U.S. banks including Bank of America Corp and Goldman Sachs as the slow economic recovery hurts trading.
Bank of America shares fell 2.1 percent to $7.61, while Goldman Sachs lost 1.2 percent to $92.17.
The board of News Corp approved in principle splitting the $60 billion media conglomerate into separate publishing and entertainment businesses, a person familiar with the situation said. News Corp shares fell 1.3 percent to $22.03.
Additional reporting by Rodrigo Campos and Ryan Vlastelica