US stocks : Dow off 1.6 pct
The decline marks the biggest percentage drop for the benchmark Standard & Poor's 500 Index since Nov.7, and drove the S&P down to its lowest close since Jan. 18. The CBOE Volatility Index or VIX, Wall Street's favorite barometer of fear, surged 34 percent, its biggest jump since Aug. 18, 2011.
Selling accelerated late in the trading session after the S&P 500 fell below the 1,500 level, which has acted as a significant support point. Monday marked the S&P's first close under 1,500 since Feb. 4.
Italy's center-left coalition holds a slim lead over former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's center-right bloc in the election for the lower house of parliament, three TV projections indicated. But any government must also command a majority in the Senate, a race that is decided by region.
The resulting gridlock in parliament could lead to new elections and cast into doubt Italy's ability to pay down its debt.
"Europe hasn't gone away as an issue, it is going to hang around, and it is rearing its ugly head today," said Stephen Massocca, managing director of Wedbush Morgan in San Francisco.
"If someone gets elected who is simply not going to play by the rules, what are they going to do? It puts them in a real quandary here because
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