Stock market plummets over concerns about Italy

Stocks are having a bad flashback to last spring, when fears about the European debt crisis sent the market spiraling lower.

On Monday, election results in Italy showed a race too close to call, leaving investors fearful that the country will struggle to form a government that can move forward with reforms to revive the economy.

The Dow fell 216.40 points, or 1.6 percent, to 13,784.17, its biggest drop since Nov. 7. The S&P 500 fell 27.75 points, or 1.8 percent, to 1,487.85, falling below 1,500 for the first time in three weeks. The Nasdaq composite dropped 45.57 points, or 1.4 percent, to 3,116.25.

Investors worry about the outcome of Italy’s election because it could set off another crisis of confidence in the region’s shared currency, the euro.

The Dow started the day gaining as much as 81 points on early optimism that Italian elections would produce a government willing to stay the course with reforms. The index drifted lower and then slumped, giving up about 150 points in the last hour of trading.

“This is what markets feared,” says Jim Russell of US Bank Wealth Management. “Stability in Europe is paramount to the markets.”

Bookstore chain founder wants to buy back part

The last remaining national bookstore chain is being taken off the shelf and dusted off for sale.

Barnes & Noble founder Leonard Riggio disclosed in a regulatory filing Monday that he wants to buy the company’s stores and website, but not the business that makes the Nook e-reader or the company’s college bookstores. No price was disclosed.

It’s the latest attempt by a company founder to take back control of all or part of a company he started. Best Buy’s co-founder Richard Schulze is mulling a bid for the electronics retailer, and Michael Dell earlier this month announced a $24.4 billion deal to take the computer company he founded private.

Fords’ engine problems are under investigation

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says it will investigate problems with stalling or surging engines in nearly 725,000 Ford cars and SUVs.

The probe affects Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner SUVs and Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan sedans from the 2009 through 2011 model years.

The vehicles can unexpectedly go into “limp home mode” at reduced power, the agency said in documents posted Monday on its website. NHTSA and Ford have received almost 1,500 complaints about the problem. There were three crashes and one injury.

Lowe’s sees improvement as earnings beat forecasts

Home improvement retailer Lowe’s Cos. credits cleanup efforts after Superstorm Sandy and its new pricing strategy for fourth-quarter earnings that surpassed Wall Street expectations.

CEO Robert Niblock said the company is seeing a rise in spending even in areas of the country hit hardest by the housing slump, such as Florida, Arizona and California.

– From news service reports