Dow plunges as sell-off accelerates

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This CNN Money graph shows the drastic shift in Dow trading from Monday to Tuesday.

This CNN Money graph shows the drastic shift in Dow trading from Monday to Tuesday.

This CNN Money graph shows the drastic shift in Dow trading from Monday to Tuesday.

This CNN Money graph shows the drastic shift in the Dow industrial average from Monday to Tuesday.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — A sell-off on Wall Street gained momentum Tuesday, with the Dow Jones industrial average dropping 240 points after three Dow components issued disappointing earnings and forecasts.

The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq shed between 1.2% and 1.7%. Even with the sharp declines, all three indexes are still up between 7% and 14% this year.

With no data on the U.S. economy Tuesday, investors were focused on the latest quarterly reports from Corporate America.

Three major U.S. industrial companies missing expectations is a worrisome sign for the global economic recovery, which remains shaky.

“Our trading partners have bigger economic issues than even we have, and that’s why we saw September drop off significantly for companies” said Tim Ghriskey, chief investment officer at Solaris Asset Management.

“There’s continuing uncertainty about the economic health of Europe and China,” he said, noting that the highly contested presidential election and looming fiscal cliff are just adding to worries about the U.S. economy.

Shares of DuPont (DD, Fortune 500) fell 8% after the Dow component reported weaker-than-expected quarterly earnings and announced plans tocut 1,500 jobs worldwide. Another Dow component, United Technologies(UTX, Fortune 500), reported better-than-expected earnings but missed on revenue and lowered its revenue forecast for next year.

Economic bellwether and Dow component 3M (MMM, Fortune 500)reported earnings that were in line with forecasts, but the company missed revenue estimates and pulled back on its guidance.

UPS, another economic bellwether, reported results that were roughly in line with expectations.

After the bell, Facebook and Netflix will release their reports.

Analysts at S&P Capital IQ predict third-quarter earnings for companies in the S&P 500 will grow by just 0.04% overall this quarter, the worst since the third quarter of 2009.

In addition to the earnings news, Apple is expected to unveil its iPad mini at an event in California at 1 p.m. ET.

Stocks were under pressure ahead of the lackluster earnings Tuesday morning, as news surrounding Spain unnerved investors.

The euro fell below the key $1.30 level after ratings agency Moody’s downgraded five of Spain’s regional governments, including Catalonia — the largest. And the gross domestic product for Spain, which has been mired in recession for months, fell by 0.4% in the third quarter from the second quarter, according to data released Tuesday from the Bank of Spain.

European stocks were lower in afternoon trading. Britain’s FTSE 100 fell 1.4%, the DAX in Germany lost 2.2% and France’s CAC 40 declined 2.2%.

Asian markets closed mixed. The Shanghai Composite slid 0.6% and Japan’s Nikkei was little changed. The Hong Kong exchange was closed for a holiday.