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Stocks Slide Amid Housing, Lehman Jitters

Stocks skidded Tuesday as worries about the housing and financial sectors came back with a vengeance.

Enthusiasm for the bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac had already started to deflate as investors worried that the rescue wouldn't solve the bigger problemswith the housing and credit markets. A sharper-than-expected decline in pending-home sales and a fresh wave of chatter about Lehman Brothers only amplified those jitters.

Pending-home sales fell 3.2 percentin July from June, more than triple the 1-percent drop expected. Pending sales are based on signed contracts, which aren't counted as a sale until the transaction closes. Such sales are down 6.8 percent from a year ago.

Lehman Brothers fell to its lowest level in a decade amid market buzz that the brokerage is unlikely to be unable to raise the capital it needs. There are reports that talks have apparently collapsed between Lehman and Korea Development Bank, and that Lehman is going to push out its quarterly results tonight, instead of next Thursday.

Homebuilders surrendered Monday's gains after the pending-home-sales report and as Credit Suisse downgraded a group of industry leaders, citing concerns that prices will continue to fall and credit standards will remain tight. Several well-known names in the sector shed more than 5 percent, including Hovnanian and KB Home.

Shares of Fannie shot up more than 40 percent while Freddie jumped more than 10 percent.

The ink is still wet on the Fannie-Freddie bailout and auto makers area already pushing for a bailout of their own.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said the House is considering a request to provide at least $25 billion— possibly up to $50 billion — in government-backed loans to help Detroit retool plants to focus on more efficient cars and trucks. It's not clear if the motion will be put to a vote before Congress breaks at the end of September, possibly for the rest of the year.

Shares of General Motors and Ford ticked higher.

Financials were some of the day's biggest decliners, following Monday's 4-percent rally.

Washington Mutual tumbled more than 20 percent as the cost to insure the bank's debt hit a record just a day after the ouster of its CEO. WaMu's credit-default swaps soared 31.5 percent, meaning it costs $3.15 million to insure $10 million in debt for five years, Markit Intraday reported.

Wachoviashares slipped after Merrill Lynch said the bank wouldn't get much boost from the rescue plan and downgraded it to underperform.

Citigroup is isselling three-year Samurai bonds valued at 315 billion yen ($2.93 billion) to Japanese retail investors, lead manager Nikko Citigroup said. The deal will be the largest Samurai bond issue ever.

Energy stocks also took a beating as oil dropped about $3 to settle at $103.26 a barrel after OPEC powerhouse Saudi Arabia suggested that a meeting of oil ministers of the 13-nation organization will decide to keep crude production steady, despite their worries over rapidly falling prices.

ConocoPhillips shed more than 5 percent, while Valero Energy lost more than 10 percent.

Techs showed a little gusto after getting hammered in the past week.

Dow component Hewlett-Packard rose 3 percent after Bernstein upgraded its rating on the stock following HP's acquisition of Electronic Data Systems.

Microsoft also helped to prop up the Dow, while Sun Microsystems was among the biggest gainers on the Nasdaq.

Apple skidded after the company announced new iPod nano and iPod Touch music players. The new nano, which is priced at $149 for 8 gigs of memory, is thinner and has a "shake to shuffle" feature. The Touch, which will sell for $229-399, depending on your gigs, is a lot like an iPhone, only without the phone part. Apple also announced a deal with NBC Universal, parent of CNBC, that NBC shows will again be available on iTunes. CEO Steve Jobs attempted to calm nervousness about his health, jesting, "Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated." (Read a transcript of a live blog from the event by CNBC's Jim Goldman.)

Google slipped following news that the Justice Department has hired one of the nation's best-known litigators, the latest sign that it plans to launch an antitrust action against Google for its tightening grip on the online-advertising market.

McDonald's shares rose after the fast-food chain said same-store sales rose 8.5 percent in August, more than expected, helped by growth in Europe and its Olympics sponsorship. (Of course, the endorsement from Mr. Eight Gold Medals, Michael Phelps, probably didn't hurt either!)

And, in a sign of the inflationary times, 99 Cents Only Stores announced that it's raising its prices. No, it's not changing its name — yet. The store is pushing it to the max, raising prices to 99.99 cents. Of course, there is no such thing as 1/100 of a penney, so with rounding, that'll be a buck, please.

THIS WEEK:

WEDNESDAY: Weekly mortgage applications; crude inventories
THURSDAY: Import/export prices; international trade; weekly jobless claims; Treasury Budget
FRIDAY: Producer prices; government reading on retail sales; business inventories; consumer sentiment

Send comments to cindy.perman@nbcuni.com.

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