Wall Street plunge: Could it worsen the economy?

(AP, WJLA) Don't look away for too long. You might miss a market rally. Or a plunge.

The Dow Jones industrial average is up 80 points after being down as many as 245 points on Friday. It had been up by as many as 171 points after a solid jobs report in the morning.

Many investors fear that Europe's spreading debt crisis might reach U.S. banks and threaten the fragile economy. A stronger jobs report early Friday did little to reassure investors, a day after the Dow's worst decline since 2008.

On Friday, a government official tells ABC News that the federal government is expecting and preparing for bond rating agency Standard & Poor's to downgrade the rating of US debt from its current AAA value.

Officials reasons given will be the political confusion surrounding the process of raising the debt ceiling, and lack of confidence that the political system will be able to agree to more deficit reduction. A source says Republicans saying that they refuse to accept any tax increases as part of a larger deal will be part of the reason cited.

Among the issues investors are most concerned about: Europe's growing financial crisis; hiring in the U.S. that is too slow to significantly lower the unemployment rate; anemic growth in manufacturing and the service sector and a decline in consumer spending; and the belief that the government is unlikely to spend more to stimulate the economy.

Locally, retirees and others were frightened that they'd lose all they had.

“These are scary times they are,” said local retiree Johnetta Davis.

She thinks uncertainty flooding the global market could wash away her nest egg. She just retired two years ago and is scared that all the money she saved could be lost.

Richard Baugh, 85, has seen a lot of ups and downs in the market and thinks the downturn could be deeper and longer than others.

“Oh it's terrible just a horrible,” said the local retiree. “I lost $200,000 in my real estate.”

Fears extended from retirees to those just entering the workforce, like District resident Kate Nix.

“You've seen a lot of failed policies from this current administration and congress has kind of proven it's incapable of doing anything about it,” Nix said.

European leaders have interrupted their summer vacations for emergency meetings. They are trying to craft a plan that would prevent Italy or Spain from becoming the latest country in the region to require large-scale financial help.

The two countries have Europe's third and fourth largest economies. But European leaders and central bankers might not have the cash needed to prop them up until a larger financial rescue fund can be established by a broader group of financial leaders.

The U.S. economy added 117,000 jobs in July, and hiring in May and June were not as bad as reported previously, the Labor Department reported. The unemployment rate inched down to 9.1 percent from 9.2 percent, partly because some unemployed workers stopped looking for work. Health care providers and manufacturers added jobs.

Fears about the broader economy are outweighing the improved jobs report and strong corporate earnings, said Dan Greenhaus, chief global strategist at the trading firm BTIG.

"From an economic standpoint, 117,000 jobs is hardly sufficient to boost the economy," he said. He said it is impossible to tell how long the nervousness will affect the market, but he said it will more likely be years than months.

About twice as many jobs as that must be created every month in order to rapidly reduce the unemployment rate. It has been above 9 percent nearly every month since the recession officially ended in June 2009. Many economists fear that the economy might dip back into recession.

Shortly after 1 p.m. EST, the Dow Jones industrial average rose 80, or 0.7 percent, to 11,464. The Standard & Poor's 500 index added 4, or 0.3 percent, to 1,204. The Nasdaq composite index fell 10 points, or 0.4 percent, to 2,547.

The Dow Jones industrial average plunged 513 points on Thursday. It was the worst day for the Dow since 2008. It is now down 1,500 points, or 11.8 percent, the losing streak began on July 21. The S&P 500 is down 12.5 percent since July 22. All three indexes are in correction. That happens when an index loses more than 10 percent off its recent highs.

Overseas markets also fell. Tokyo, Hong Kong and China all closed down 4 percent. Taiwan lost 6 percent. In Europe, shares recovered some of their losses after plunging to their lowest levels in more than a year. Germany's DAX index fell 2.8 percent. Other indexes showed smaller losses.

The yield on the 2-year Treasury note fell to 0.29 percent, after brushing a record low of 0.26 percent earlier Friday. Frightened investors are buying bonds, sending their prices higher and yields lower. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.48 percent after hitting a low since last year of 2.34 percent.

Traders have focused on a torrent of bad economic news since the U.S. government struck a deal last weekend to raise the nation's borrowing limit, averting a debt default. Manufacturing and the service sector are barely growing. The economy expanded in the first half of the year at its slowest pace since the recession ended in June 2009.

Economists at Wells Fargo Securities estimate there is a one in three chance of another U.S. recession.

Only three of the three S&P 500's ten industry groups are up for the year: Health care, utilities and consumer staples. Traders consider those companies to be relatively recession-resistant.

Procter & Gamble's stock opened higher but was flat in late morning trading. The consumer products company's fourth-quarter revenue and income jumped on strong sales in emerging markets.

Viacom Inc. fell slightly after the firm said its income and revenue increased more than analysts expected in the second quarter because of strong advertising sales and fees from cable companies. Inc. surged 8 percent, the most in the S&P, after the company reported that it earned far more than expected in the second quarter as travel bookings on the website increased.