Stocks open sharply lower

NEW YORK A global stock market slump is continuing on Wall Street as traders worry about how committed the Federal Reserve remains to keeping up its bond-buying program.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 112 points to 15,191 in early trading Thursday, or 0.7 percent.

The Standard & Poor's 500 fell 16 points to 1,638, or 1 percent. The Nasdaq fell 29 points to 3,433, or 0.8 percent.

Stocks were down 2.7 percent in Germany and 2.6 percent in France. Japan's Nikkei plunged 7 percent but is still up 39 percent this year.

Investors were spooked by minutes from the latest Fed meeting indicating that several policymakers are leaning toward slowing the central bank's bond-buying program, which has been keeping interest rates low and encouraging investors to buy risky assets like stocks.

Despite that view among some central bank members, experts say that Fed chief Ben Bernanke shows little sign of wanting to immediately wind down the massive bond purchases that have helped propel stocks into record terrain this year. Bernanke appeared before lawmakers yesterday on Capitol Hill to disucss the Fed's plans.

Jim O'Sullivan, chief U.S. economist with High Frequency Economics, said in a research note that Bernanke "made it clear in his testimony that there is virtually no chance of scaling down" Fed bond purchases over the next two months.