Markets closed down today:
▼ Dow: -1.24 percent
▼ Nasdaq: -2.10 percent
▼ S&P: -1.51 percent
▲ Gold: up +2.23 percent to $1,574.40 (up from $1,538.43) an ounce
▲ Silver: up +3.31 percent to settle at $28.01
▼ Oil: -0.03 percent
Markets were down today because:
Unable to shake their worries about Europe, investors drove stocks to a four-month low Thursday and piled into bonds, sending the yield on the 10-year Treasury note close to an all-time low.
The Dow Jones industrial average posted its 11th loss in 12 days after a pair of discouraging economic reports further unnerved traders already concerned about a possible exit from the euro by Greece.
The Dow lost 156.06 points, most of it toward the end of the trading day, to close at 12,442.49. It is down almost 6 percent for May, and what had been a strong year for stocks has been reduced to a slender 1.8 percent gain.
The Standard & Poor's 500 stock index closed at its lowest point since Jan. 17.
The yield on the benchmark 10-year note hit 1.69 percent. That is lower than any 3 p.m. reading since at least 1953, according to records kept by the Federal Reserve.
According to other financial data providers, including Dow Jones and Bloomberg, the yield on the 10-year dipped slightly lower, to 1.67 percent, at other points in the trading day last September.
The dollar and gold both rose as traders sought refuge in lower-risk assets.
In other trading, the Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 19.94 points to 1,304.86, its lowest close since Jan. 17. The Nasdaq composite fell 60.35 points to 2,813.69.
It is not much of a welcome for Facebook, which starts trading Friday in one of the most talked-about debuts in the history of the U.S. stock market.
In Europe, Fitch ratings agency downgraded Greece deeper into junk territory on Thursday and warned that a Greek exit from the euro currency is "probable" if new national elections next month produce an anti-bailout government.
Fitch cut Greece's rating by one notch, from B- to CCC, the lowest possible for a country that is not in default.
Greece swore in a caretaker Cabinet that will hold power at least until next month's election. In elections earlier this month, Greeks gave strong support to politicians who rejected the tough budget cuts that came with the country's financial bailout.
German, French and Spanish stock markets all fell more than 1 percent.
Spain was forced to pay sharply higher interest rates to raise $3.18 billion in a debt auction Thursday. And shares of Bankia, which Spain nationalized last week, plunged 20 percent on a report from the newspaper El Mundo stating that depositors have withdrawn over $1 billion since last Wednesday.
Oil prices continued to trade lower, falling below $93 a barrel and extending a two-week sell-off, as traders worried about the potential impact on global growth from the European crisis. Crude oil has plummeted about 12 percent from $106 two weeks ago.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.