Why the Dow Plunged This Morning

News that several countries in Europe would likely get credit downgrades from Standard & Poor's sent the stock market down sharply this morning, falling triple digits just after it opened. At 10 am ET, the Dow Jones Industrials (INDEX: ^DJI) were down 104 points to 12,367, while the S&P 500 (INDEX: ^GSPC) fell 11 points to 1,285. Except for DuPont (NYS: DD) , which also rose strongly yesterday on a good day for the chemical industry, all of the Dow's components opened lower.

JPMorgan Chase (NYS: JPM) fell more than 3% after announcing that its fourth-quarter profit dropped by 23%. Those numbers were roughly in line with estimates, as the rocky business environment stifled merger and acquisition activity and hurt trading. But, despite continuing concerns about Europe, CEO Jamie Dimon cited improving loan demand in the U.S. along with higher credit quality.

JPMorgan's news hurt Bank of America (NYS: BAC) , but B of A also fell sharply on reports that the bank is considering exiting certain U.S. regional markets if its financial condition continues to deteriorate. The move, which would reportedly involve selling branches, suggests that B of A's financial woes may be deeper than many had hoped -- especially after the stock's huge run so far in 2012.

When Dow stocks are falling, look elsewhere for top investment opportunities. Check out The Motley Fool's latest special report to discover our top stock pick for 2012. It's free, but it won't be available for long, so get your copy now.

At the time thisarticle was published Fool contributor Dan Caplinger doesn't own shares of the companies mentioned. You can follow him on Twitter here. The Motley Fool owns shares of Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Fool has a disclosure policy.

Copyright © 1995 - 2012 The Motley Fool, LLC. All rights reserved. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.