Stocks Opened Sharply Lower as Greece Weighs

U.S. stocks opened sharply lower on Monday as concerns grew about the state of Europe’s finances as Greece and Germany sparred over budget measures for Athens. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lately fell 112.54 points to 12,547.92. The S&P 500 shed 14.21 points to 1,302.12. The Nasdaq Composite declined 28.08 points to 2,788.47.

Greece’s finance minister has dismissed reports that his country might face the imposition of an EU commissioner with veto over the national government’s budgets. Evangelos Venizelos, finance minister and deputy prime minister, said Sunday that such a measure was unnecessary. Earlier media reports suggested that Germany was pushing for Greece to give up control over its budget.

The special commissioner appointed by the EU would have veto over the Greek government’s budget decisions to ensure the country met its austerity measures. It would be difficult for Ireland to remain in the euro zone if its voters rejected a proposed new fiscal treaty, its European Affairs minister said on Monday, raising the stakes in a political battle over whether to put the plan to a referendum.European leaders are expected to agree to tighten budget rules on Monday, seeking to regain market confidence in the public finances of the 17 countries sharing the euro after three, including Ireland, had to seek international bailouts in a crisis that now threatens major economies such as Italy.

Consumer spending was flat in December as households took advantage of the largest rise in income in nine months to boost their savings, setting the tone for a slowdown in demand early in 2012. For all of 2011, spending rose 4.7 percent, the largest increase since 2007.

Aware that most Americans would like to dump them all, members of Congress hope to regain some sense of trust by subjecting themselves to tougher penalties for insider trading and requiring they disclose stock transactions within 30 days. A procedural vote Monday would allow the Senate later this week to pass a bill prohibiting members of Congress from using nonpublic information for their own personal benefit or “tipping” others to inside information that they could trade on.

Facebook’s initial public offering is likely to set a new standard for how low investment banks are willing to go on advisory fees to win big business. The world’s largest online social network is expected to tap public markets for $10 billion in the coming months in an offering that will value the company at up to $100 billion. It will be one of the biggest U.S. market debuts ever, and a prized trophy for the investment bankers seeking to win lead advisory roles.

Crude-oil futures declined in electronic trading Monday as U.S. stock-index futures and most Asian and European stock markets fell and the dollar strengthened amid lingering worries over Greece. The March contract for light, sweet crude-oil futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange fell 54 cents, or 0.5%, to $99.03 a barrel during Europe trading hours.

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