Stocks Fell Sharply as Italian Debt Worries Grew

Stocks fell sharply in early trading Wednesday on growing concerns that Italy’s debt levels are unsustainable. The Dow Jones industrial average lately was down 278.82 points, or 2.29 percent, to 11,891.36. The S&P 500 fell 32.01, or 2.51 percent, to 1,243.91. The Nasdaq lost 70.75, or 2.59 percent, to 2,656.74.

Italy’s key borrowing rate spiked Wednesday well above the 7 percent level that eventually forced other eurozone countries to seek bailouts, amid uncertainty over who would lead the country when Premier Silvio Berlusconi steps down.

Toyota Motor Corp. said Wednesday it is recalling about 550,000 vehicles worldwide — mostly in the United States — for problems that could make it harder to steer. The recall affects 447,000 vehicles in North America, as well as 38,000 in Japan and another 25,000 in Australia and New Zealand, said Toyota spokesman Dion Corbett. In Europe some 14,000 vehicles are being recalled along with 10,000 in the Middle East and 14,000 in Asia outside Japan.

General Motors Co.’s  third-quarter net income fell 15 percent from a year earlier, dragged down by losses in Europe and South America and weak earnings in all areas except North America and China. Its net income fell to $1.7 billion in the quarter, or $1.03 per share, compared with $2 billion, or $1.20 per share, a year earlier.

The world’s largest brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev NV said Wednesday its third-quarter profits rose by over 16 percent, largely on the back of the continued popularity of global brands like Stella Artois and Beck’s. It says its revenue grew by 3.6 percent in the third quarter even though volumes decreased by 0.2 percent.

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