Greece was pushed to the brink of a financial abyss and started dragging another eurozone country – Portugal – down with it Tuesday, fueling fears of a continent-wide debt meltdown.
Stocks around the world tanked when ratings agency Standard & Poor's downgraded Greek bonds to junk status and downgraded Portugese bonds two notches, showing investors that Greece's financial contagion is spreading.
Major European exchanges fell more than 2.5 percent, and on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average finished down more than 200 points. The euro slid more than 1 percent to nearly an eight-month low.
"We have the makings of a market crisis here," said Neil Mackinnon, global macro strategist at VTB Capital.
Greece is struggling with massive debt, and with prospects for economic growth weak it could end up in default. Its 15 eurozone partners and the International Monetary Fund have tried to calm the markets with a euro45 billion rescue package, but it hasn't worked.
Standard & Poor's warned that holders of Greek debt could take large losses in any restructuring, but a greater worry is that Greece's debt crisis is mushrooming to other debt-laden members of the eurozone.