Stock markets tumble as Spain fears spark global selloff

Canadian stocks fell sharply on Monday amid concerns that Spain will need a full-scale sovereign bailout while traders took in two major acquisitions in the Canadian energy sector.China National Offshore Oil Company is buying Calgary-based oil and gas producer Nexen for US$15.1 billion in cash. And Talisman Energy is selling its 49% interest in U.K. North Sea assets to Chinese firm Sinopec for $1.5 billion.CNOOC is paying $27.50 a share, a 61 per cent premium on the closing price of Nexen shares on Friday at the New York Stock Exchange. On the TSX, its shares soared 53.21 per cent to $26.49.And Talisman Energy Inc. (TSX:TLM) is selling its 49 per cent interest in U.K. North Sea assets to Chinese firm Sinopec Corp. for $1.5 billion. Its shares jumped 6.8 per cent to $11.80.Toronto’s S&P/TSX composite index tumbled 119.88 points to 11,503.03.U.S. stocks dropped on Monday as McDonald’s quarterly earnings missed expectations and the latest signs from Spain pointed to a euro-zone debt crisis that offers little hope of turning around.Earnings from McDonald’s Corp were the latest casualty among large multinational companies after the world’s biggest hamburger chain posted lower-than-expected profit, citing a slower global economy and a stronger dollar. McDonald’s stock slid 3 percent to $88.87. It was the biggest drag on the Dow.The high-profile earnings disappointments have taken a toll on third-quarter estimates. Third-quarter S&P 500 earnings growth is now expected to come in at 0.9 percent, down from 3.1 percent at the beginning of the month.In the latest development in the euro-zone crisis, the Spanish region of Murcia looked set to follow Valencia in tapping a government program to keep its finances afloat. Local media reported half a dozen regions were ready to follow suit.The International Monetary Fund dismissed a weekend news report, which had increased concerns about the region, that it may refuse to continue supporting Greece as it prepares for talks with the new Greek government on its international bailout.“All it does is it brings up that whole crisis again – all that tells you, it really didn’t go away. No one has really fixed anything,” said Ken Polcari, managing director at ICAP Equities in New York. “For a couple of weeks there, it was quiet so people weren’t paying attention (to Europe) but the minute they opened their mouth – boom.”Energy shares also slumped as fears of a global slowdown prompted investors to shun riskier assets, with U.S. crude down nearly 3 percent at $89.46 a barrel. Chevron Corp dropped 1.8 percent to $107.24. The NYSE Arca oil index lost 2.2 percent.The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 131.54 points, or 1.03 percent, to 12,691.03. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index fell 16.09 points, or 1.18 percent, to 1,346.57. The Nasdaq Composite Index lost 44.67 points, or 1.53 percent, to 2,880.63.Stocks appeared to stabilize as the S&P 500 approached its 50-day moving average of 1,332.98, a technical support level that could trigger more losses if convincingly broken.“It’s a natural reaction when you have such a dramatic move down, traders try to find some value and pick bottoms of stocks,” said Doreen Mogavero, CEO of Mogavero, Lee & Co in New York.According to Thomson Reuters data, of the 120 companies in the S&P 500 that have posted earnings through Monday morning, 67.5 percent have reported earnings above analyst expectations. Over the past four quarters, 68 percent of companies beat estimates.The CBOE Volatility Index, or VIX, Wall Street’s fear gauge, jumped nearly 26 percent – its biggest percentage gain since November – when it touched a session high of 20.49. By midday, the VIX had given up some gains to trade at 18.69.“While the actual VIX level is quite low at the moment, some of the volatility-related indicators are waving the flag of caution this week,” said Randy Frederick, managing director of active trading and derivatives at Charles Schwab.According to the VIX Open Interest Put-to-Call ratio, VIX options traders are holding only 50 puts for every 100 calls outstanding on the VIX. The last time this ratio hit this level was early August of 2011, just before a huge volatility spike that lasted nearly four months, he said.“While QE3 is starting to look more realistic than it has in recent months,” Frederick said, “I still think the VIX is not currently reflecting the true risk in the marketplace.”The euro slid to a two-year low against the dollar and a near 12-year trough against the yen, pressured by fears that Spain may eventually need a full sovereign bailout.The yield on the Spanish 10-year bond was last at 7.496 percent, well over what analysts consider a sustainable level.With files from Reuters