Wall Street posted modest losses after putting the brakes on today to stop a sharp decline early on in which the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell as much as 135 points, mirroring the slide of global markets as investors faced renewed fears about Russia's economy and political instability.
Late last night, Russia's new prime minister, Viktor Chernomyrdin, joined President Boris Yeltsin in announcing a plan to restructure Russia's debt payments. The news sent the ruble plunging 10 percent, from 7.14 to the American dollar to 7.88. Trading in Russia was suspended twice in the wake of the currency decline.
Although the announcement in Russia was meant to reassure investors that the country was taking steps to stabilize its economy, it instead sent jitters through global markets.
The Dow began recovering in early afternoon trading, closing the day down 79.30 points or less than 1 percent at 8,523.35. The technology-heavy Nasdaq took a bigger percentage hit, closing down 1.67 percent to reach 1,768.09.
Japan's Nikkei Index closed down 206.9 points or 1.37 percent at 14,866.03, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 1.71 percent to 7,834.
In Europe, Germany's DAX closed down 2.61 percent or 140.15 points. German markets are likely to take the biggest hit from Russia's instability because Berlin is one of the biggest lenders to Russia.
London's Financial Times Index fell 109 points to close at 5545.4.
Semiconductor stocks were hit hard across the board today, despite news from the Commerce Department that demand for semiconductors, along with other durable goods, surged in July.
Struggling semiconductor equipment maker Applied Materials also saw one of the larger declines today, after the company announced yesterday that it will cut 15 percent of its workforce and post a net loss during the fiscal fourth quarter due to a restructuring charge. Shares of Applied Materials fell 5.96 percent at 29.56. The stock has traded as high as 52.97 and as low as 25.5 during the past 52 weeks.
Internet stocks also were taking a beating today, with online book and music retailer Amazon.com falling 3.32 percent to 127.25. Preview Travel closed down nearly 6 percent at 24.13. Web Portal Excite fell 2.48 percent to close at 39.38 while Lycos rose 2.36 percent to close at 38.
Adobe Systems stock jumped today on the news of Quark's attempted takeover, closing up 12.47 percent at 27.63. Yesterday, the company's shares closed at 24.5625, very near its 52-week low and well below its early March peak of more than 50 per share. The graphic applications' company has been hurt by Asia's sagging economy. Adobe had hoped to get a boost from the region with revenue from new sales, which tends to be higher than that generated from upgrades.