Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock...

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange Friday. (June 22, 2012) Credit: AP

Europe's latest efforts to quell its financial crisis left investors exasperated Monday, causing steep losses in stock markets on both sides of the Atlantic.

In Europe, Spain formally asked for help to rescue the country's ailing banks, but its request left many questions unanswered, including how much it needs of the $125-billion loan package offered by other European governments. The uncertainty unsettled markets, pushing borrowing costs higher for Spain's government.

"Right now it's all about Europe, and confidence is pretty low," said Doug Cote, chief market strategist for ING Investment Management.

The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 138.12 points to close at 12,502.66. The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 1.60 percent to close at 1,313.72.

Big bank stocks slumped. Many analysts expect banks in Europe and the United States to suffer from a freeze-up in Europe's financial system if Spain fails to rescue its troubled banks. Spain's banks have been hobbled by loans made during a real-estate bubble, and the government has been inconsistent about how much help it will need to save them.

The Nasdaq index fell 1.94 percent to 2,836.16. The dollar and Treasury prices rose. -- AP

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