US stock markets fell heavily in early afternoon trading on Friday after crude oil prices rocketed by almost 10 dollars a barrel to briefly break the 137 dollar barrier for the first time.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average had slumped a hefty 272.76 points (2.16 percent) to 12,331.69 and the tech-dominated Nasdaq composite had dived 46.48 points (1.82 percent) to 2,503.46 at 1736 GMT.
The broad-market Standard & Poor’s 500 index retreated 25.62 points (1.82 percent) to 1,378.43.
Traders said a sharp spike in oil prices had added to Wall Street’s earlier losses. Stocks had been weighed down in earlier trading as a government survey revealed a sharp jump in unemployment.
Wall Street’s losses deepened as a key New York oil futures contract rocketed 9.91 dollars to a record 137.70 dollars per barrel before retreating somewhat.