US stocks slide lower as euro worries persist

NEW YORK (AP) ? U.S. stocks are slipping early Wednesday as worries over Europe hang over financial markets. Energy companies fell hard as oil dropped 3 percent.

Italy’s borrowing rates ratcheted higher and the euro slid below $1.30 for the first time since January, two signs that the debt crisis continues to pressure Europe’s governments.

Italy had to pay higher borrowing rates in its last bond auction of the year Wednesday. The euro zone’s third-largest economy paid 6.47 percent interest to borrow ?3 billion ($3.95 billion) for five years, up from 6.30 percent just a month ago.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 61 points, or 0.5 percent to 11,893 as of 10 a.m. Eastern time. Caterpillar Inc. fell 3.4 percent, the most of the 30 stocks in the Dow. The Dow closed down both Monday and Tuesday.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 8, or 0.7 percent, to 1,217. The Nasdaq fell 24, or 0.9 percent to 2,554.

In Europe, Germany’s DAX dropped 1.3 percent; France’s main stock index fell 1.9 percent.

The drop in crude prices pulled down Cabot Oil & Gas Corp, Alpha Natural Resources Inc. and Apache Corp. All three were down more than 3 percent in early trading.

First Solar Inc. plunged 19 percent, the biggest drop in the S&P 500, after the country’s largest solar company slashed its earnings estimate for the year. The solar industry has been hit hard by slower economic growth around the world and as government funding for alternative energy projects has dried up.

Avon jumped 8.7 percent, the largest gain in the S&P 500. The company announced late Tuesday that its CEO, Andrea Jung, will step down. The cosmetics company has been struggling with erratic financial results and is under scrutiny by regulators.

The Dow and S&P are down more than 2 percent for the week. The Nasdaq is down 3 percent.