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Stocks Slide Amid Bailout Jitters, Oil Rally

Stocks declined Monday amid increasing worry about how far the government bailout plan will stretch and as oil prices shot up nearly $20 a barrel.

"It's the fear of the unknown," said Al Goldman, chief market strategist at Wachovia Securities. "We got used to writeoffs ... we had so many shoes drop that it didn't mean anything. Then, over the weekend, we get Wall Street has changed forever," Goldman said. "This is a real shock."

All three major indexes — the Dow Jones Industrial Average, S&P 500 and Nasdaq — were off about 3 percent in the final 45 minutes of trading. (Track the Dow winners & losers.)

Crude oil rocketed $16.37, or 16 percent — the biggest one-day move in both dollar and percentage terms — to settle at $120.92 a barrel amid a massive short squeeze. The October contract expires today and a big reason for today's rally was short covering. Short covering occurs when a buyer borrows a stock, betting it will go down, then has to buy it back at that lower price. A lot of traders were short oil, assuming the only way it could go was down, then had to cover their bets before the contract expired.

The Bush administration and Congress stepped up talks on a $700 billion-plus bailout plan, which will give the Treasury powers to buy toxic assets. Congressional Democrats want to add provisions to include aid for homeowners. The plan could ultimately wind up costing $1.8 trillion.

The hits just keep on coming on Wall Street.

The last two pillars on Wall Street — Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley — are being converted into commercial bank-holding companies instead of stand-alone investment banks. The two banks will now be able to create commercial banks, but will be subject to tighter regulation.

Goldman shares rose 4 percent. Morgan Stanley shot up 15 percent after Japan's largest bank, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, said today that it plans to buy a 10 to 20 percent stakein the firm.

Morgan Stanley had been in talks to merge with Wachovia but sources close to the deal say these latest developments put any such deal on the back burner — possibly forever.

Meanwhile, Japanese brokerage house Nomura Holdings reached a deal to buy the Asian operations of Lehman Brothers, . UK bank Barclays has already snapped up the core US business held by Lehman.

The New York Stock Exchange announced Monday plans to add 30 more stocks to the short-selling ban list, including CNBC parent General Electric , CIT Group , Legg Mason and American Express . (See a list of the 30 stocks added and the original 799.)

The short-selling ban didn't appear to help banks. Washington Mutual tumbled 20 percent, while Wachovia and Wells Fargo were off about 10 percent.

JPMorgan also shed about 10 percent.

While the financials continued to flail, a trio of cash-rich firms -- Microsoft , Hewlett-Packard and Nike -- launched stock buybacks and dividend increases.

Investors will be watching other cash-saturated companies such as Apple , Google and Research In Motion to see if they are willing to share the love, too.

Adding pressure to Apple stock, JPMorgan slashed its price target on the stock.

Kraft Foods skidded on its Dow debut. The snack maker's stock was added to the Dow today, replacing AIG .

THIS WEEK:

TUESDAY: Richmond Fed manuf. report; Earnings from Lennar
WEDNESDAY: Bank Reserve Settlement; Fed's Bernanke and Lacker speak; weekly mortgage applications; existing-home sales; weekly oil inventories; Earnings from Bed, Bath & Beyond and Nike
THURSDAY: Paulson testifies; Chicago, Dallas Fed presidents speak; jobless claims; durable goods; new home sales; natural-gas inventories; Kansas City Fed manuf. report; Earnings from Discover, Rite Aid and Research In Motion
FRIDAY: St. Louis Fed pres. speaks; Last look at Q2 GDP, corporate profits; consumer sentiment; Earnings from KBHome

Send comments to cindy.perman@nbcuni.com.

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