Stocks Opened Lower on Greece, Economy Worries

U.S. stocks started sharply lower on Tuesday as worries about Greece’s pending private-sector debt swap added to concerns about global growth. The Dow Jones industrial average lately lost 151.59 points, or 1.17 percent, to 12,811.22. The S&P 500 Index dropped 17.32 points, or 1.27 percent, to 1,347.01. The Nasdaq Composite fell 38.59 points, or 1.31 percent, to 2,911.89.

A disorderly Greek default would cause more than a trillion euros ($1.3 trillion) of damage to the euro zone and could leave Italy and Spain dependent on outside help to stop contagion spreading, the main bondholders group has said. Greek private creditors have until Thursday night to say whether they will participate in a bond swap that is part of a bailout deal to help it manage its finances and meet a debt repayment on March 20.

A collapse in household spending, exports and manufacturing sucked the life out of the euro zone’s economy in the final months of 2011, the EU said on Tuesday, showing the scope of the downturn that looks set to become a fully fledged recession.

A senior administration official says President Barack Obama will announce housing initiatives to help members of the military as well as homeowners with mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration.

Merck & Co Inc (NYS:MRK) said on Tuesday it expects first-quarter earnings per share to be between 95 and 98 cents, excluding items, below the average estimate on Wall Street of $1.01.

Verizon Wireless on Tuesday announced a version of its wireless broadband service that’s designed for use in rural and remote homes that can’t get DSL or cable.

China will cut income taxes on companies and import duties on energy and raw materials as part of efforts to spur domestic consumption and reduce reliance on exports and investment, the finance minister said Tuesday.

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