- - Wednesday, November 16, 2011

WALL STREET

Stocks sink after Fitch warns on U.S. bank exposure

NEW YORK — A warning from Fitch Ratings that large U.S. banks could be hit hard if Europe’s debt crisis spreads sent stocks on a downward spiral late Wednesday.

U.S. indexes were moving between small gains and losses before Fitch released its report around 3:15 p.m. The Dow was down just 36 points with an hour of trading left, then plunged to end the day down 190.

Fitch, one of the three main credit-rating agencies besides S&P and Moody’s, said in its report that U.S. banks could be “greatly affected” if Europe’s debt crisis continues to spread beyond the financially distressed countries of Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Spain.

Large banks took a late-afternoon dive. Bank of America Corp. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. each lost 3.7 percent. Goldman Sachs dropped 4.1 percent and Morgan Stanley 7.9 percent.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed at 11,905.59, a loss of 190.57, or 1.6 percent. It was the Dow’s first close below 12,000 since last Thursday.

PORTUGAL

Country qualifies for next batch of bailout funds

LISBON — International lenders said Wednesday they have approved the next batch of bailout funds for Portugal after determining that the country is making progress on cutting its heavy debt load and improving its economic competitiveness.

Inspectors from the International Monetary Fund and Portugal’s European partners said they would release a further 8 billion euros of the 78-billion-euro ($105 billion) rescue package they awarded the country earlier this year.

One of the eurozone’s frailest members, Portugal must abide by a three-year program of austerity measures and economic changes in order to qualify for the aid, which is released in batches.

AUTO

Chrysler banks on Jeep to lead sales in Europe

TOLEDO, Ohio — Chrysler is counting on a new Jeep sport utility vehicle and its strong brand name to help withstand uncertainty in the European auto market and expand into new markets in China and Russia, the automaker’s chief executive said Wednesday.

The company announced plans to spend $500 million at the Ohio assembly complex that will make the new model and to add 1,100 jobs by late 2013. The expansion is part of a $1.7 billion investment to build the new Jeep.

Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said Jeep is becoming the star of its European market and sales have been doubling. “It’s the best brand Chrysler owns by a long margin,” he said. “It’s got a glorious history.”

Italian automaker Fiat SpA, which controls Chrysler, has been hit hard this year by slumping overall sales in Europe. It has been turning more toward business in the United States and Brazil, said Mr. Marchionne, who is CEO of both companies.

TECHNOLOGY

Barnes & Noble’s Nook Tablet arrives in stores

NEW YORK — Barnes & Noble Inc.’s Nook Tablet began arriving in stores and homes on Wednesday, one day ahead of schedule.

The move came just after Amazon.com began shipping its similar Kindle Fire on Monday, also a day ahead of schedule. Both hope their souped-up tabletlike electronic readers will be popular gifts this holiday season.

Apple Inc.’s iPad has dominated the tablet market so far. That device starts at $499. The Nook Tablet is selling for $249, and Amazon’s Kindle Fire sells for $199.

Since introducing its first Nook in 2009, Barnes & Noble has spent heavily on its e-book readers and e-bookstore.

Unlike Amazon, Barnes & Noble doesn’t offer its own streaming services, but the Nook includes preloaded software from Hulu and Netflix Inc.

From wire dispatches and staff reports