NEW YORK - Stocks sank on Tuesday on concern that the recession is worsening and that efforts to stabilize the beleaguered financial system may not be enough.

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

Shares of Bank of America fell 10.7 percent to $4.97 on the New York Stock Exchange, as shares of JPMorgan declined 8.4 percent to $22.64. Wells Fargo declined 8.1 percent to $14.50.

The KBW Banks index <.BKX> tumbled 7 percent.

Energy shares slid along with plunging oil prices, sending Exxon Mobil down 4 percent to $71.59. U.S. front-month crude dropped 6.7 percent, or $2.66, to $34.98 a barrel amid concern the deepening recession will sap energy demand.

It's possible that all four quarters will be negative this year. The data continues a pattern of bad data that will weigh on the markets for the foreseeable future, said Jim Awad, managing director at Zephyr Management in New York.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> slid 254.64 points, or 3.24 percent, to 7,595.77. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> declined 31.46 points, or 3.80 percent, to 795.38. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> tumbled 54.45 points, or 3.55 percent, to 1,479.91.

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 2.7 percent at $47.78.

(Additional reporting by Ryan Vlastelica; Editing by James Dalgleish)