Stocks tumbled at the open on Wednesday as a spike in Italian bond yields prompted fears the region's debt crisis was spiraling.

The Dow Jones industrial average was down 252.40 points, or 2.07 percent, at 11,917.78. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was down 28.67 points, or 2.25 percent, at 1,247.25. The Nasdaq Composite Index was down 65.43 points, or 2.40 percent, at 2,662.06.

The CBOE Volatility Index VIX, Wall Street's so-called fear gauge, jumped 13.9 percent to 31.30.

(Reporting by Angela Moon; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)