Stocks Decline as AmEx, GE Skid

Stocks fell sharply Friday as worries about earnings continued to rattle the market.

The Dow Jones Industrial Averagewas down more than 150 points in the first few minutes of trading, after losing 105.30 on Thursday. The S&P 500and Nasdaq also declined.  

American Express was the biggest decliner on the Dow after Citigroup slapped the credit-card maker with a "sell" rating, citing the slowdown in consumer spending.

Fox-Pitt, Kelton noted that Capital One's terrible fourth quarter indicated things got worse for credit-card companies in December and that AmEx in particular might have to cut its dividend or raise more capital.

Capital One shares tumbled more than 10 percent after three analysts cut their price target on the stock. S&P cut its credit outlook on the company to negative and said a further downgrade is likely. On Thursday, Capital One missed earnings expectations and forecast more credit losses in 2009 as credit-card spending fell 10 percent.

"Deteriorating credit [at Capital One] may erode all profits over the next 12-18 months," Richard Shane, an analyst at Jefferies & Co, wrote in a research note to clients. "The uncertainty surrounding the depth and duration of the labor downturn will continue to weigh on the shares."

Citigroup also put a "sell" rating on MasterCard but put Visa on its "buy" list.

General Electric, the parent of, saw its stock open lower as investors dug into its earnings. The results met expectations but concerns about its dividend and triple-A rating lingered in the market.

Harley-Davidson shares were getting pounded after the motorcycle maker said it would lay off 1,100 workers and close plants as a global consumer slowdown battered its business and sent earnings below Wall Street estimates.

Bank of America shares skidded as a growing chorus began to call for CEO Ken Lewis's resignation, too. On Thursday, former Merrill CEO John Thain agreed to resign from the joint company.

Citigroup shares rebounded, though remained just above $3 a share, while JPMorgan Chase slipped.

Google shares rose after the Internet giant beat earnings expectations as advertising remained robust despite the economic slowdown.

Elsewhere in tech land, Samsung Electronicsposted its first ever quarterly loss. The company joined the likes of Microsoft, Nokia and Sony in disappointing investors with results.

Wyeth shares jumped as drug giant Pfizercould be set to buy the company, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Elsewhere, Xerox shares fell more than 10 percent after the office-equipment maker's earnings of 30 cents a share missed expectations.

Schlumberger skidded after the oil giant's fourth-quarter earnings fell 17 percent and the company predicted tough times ahead.