NEW YORK - Stocks tumbled on Tuesday as investors confronted fresh signs that the recession is worsening and worried that efforts to stabilize the beleaguered financial system may not prove sufficient.

The slide took the benchmark S&P 500 below the 800 level for the first time since the bear market low of November 21, weighed by financials, energy companies and big manufacturers.

Shares of Bank of America fell 10.2 percent to $5 on the New York Stock Exchange, as shares of JPMorgan lost nearly 9 percent to $22.53. Wells Fargo dropped more than 7 percent to $14.54, as the KBW Banks index <.BKX> tumbled 7.2 percent.

There's still trouble in the banking sector, trouble with respect to corporate earnings and nothing that we've seen is going to reverse that in the short term, said Dan Greenhous, market analyst at Miller Tabak & Co in New York.

I don't believe equities are appropriately priced for weakness through the entirety of 2009.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> slid 263.95 points, or 3.36 percent, to 7,586.46. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> dropped 32.62 points, or 3.95 percent, to 794.22. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> tumbled 53.90 points, or 3.51 percent, to 1,480.46.

Before the market's open, a report showing that manufacturing production in New York state fell to a record low in February added to worries about the deepening recession among investors already fearful that a new U.S. economic stimulus package won't be a quick fix.

In Japan data showed on Monday that the world's second biggest economy sank deeper into recession with its worst quarterly contraction since the oil crisis in the 1970s.

Energy shares slid along with plunging oil prices, sending Exxon Mobil down 4.3 percent to $71.41. U.S. front-month crude dropped 6.7 percent, or $2.54, to $34.98 a barrel amid concern the deepening recession will sap energy demand.

Among big manufacturers, shares of 3M Co fell almost 4 percent to $47.55, while Caterpillar Inc shed 5.1 percent to $29.36. On Nasdaq, shares of iPod and iPhone maker Apple Inc were a top drag, down 3.5 percent at $95.78. The semiconductor index <.SOXX> fell 5 percent.

Wal-Mart was the only stock higher in the 30-component Dow industrial average after the retailer posted a quarterly profit that beat Wall Street's forecasts. It was up 3.3 percent at $48.07.

U.S. President Barack Obama is due to sign a $787 billion economic stimulus bill into law on Tuesday, but investors are fearful that the measure would not help soften the impact of the 14-month-old recession soon enough. The White House hopes the package will save or create 3.5 million jobs.

(Editing by James Dalgleish)