NEW YORK -- Europe's widening debt crisis and a weak report on Chinese manufacturers pushed stocks sharply lower Wednesday.

Traders were spooked by the poor results at an auction of German debt, which drew too few bids to sell all of the notes being offered.

The weak buying suggests Europe's crisis might be infecting strong nations like Germany that are crucial to keeping the euro currency afloat. Germany bears much of the burden of bailing out weaker neighbors.

--The Dow Jones industrial average fell 236.17, or 2.1 percent, to close at 11,257.55.

--The S&P 500 index fell 26.25, or 2.2 percent, to 1,161.79.

--The Nasdaq fell 61.20, or 2.4 percent, to 2,460.08.

GKN jobs deal sealed at Paris show, Haley says

COLUMBIA -- Aircraft parts maker GKN Aerospace plans to invest $38 million on an Orangeburg plant and create 250 jobs during the next six years.

The unit of U.K-based GKN PLC said it will move into a new 150,000-square-foot building near Interstate 26 and begin operations by mid-2012.

Gov. Nikki Haley said GKN was one of the companies with which she sealed a deal during a trip to the Paris Air Show this summer. Taxpayer spending on the trip had been a source of criticism for Haley, who defended the trip in part by saying she had sealed two jobs deals during the trip.

GKN makes parts for the military as well as for a Honda aircraft plant in North Carolina.

Mortgage rates remain near their record lows

WASHINGTON -- The average rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage hovered above its record low for a fourth straight week.

Freddie Mac said Wednesday the rate on the 30-year fixed loan fell to 3.98 percent from 4 percent the previous week. The average rate on the 15-year fixed mortgage edged down to 3.3 percent from 3.31 percent.

Rates have been below 5 percent for all but two weeks this year, which could be the worst for home sales in 14 years.

Nokia Siemens aims to slash 23% of workforce

HELSINKI -- Nokia Siemens Networks says it will cut 17,000 jobs worldwide -- nearly 23 percent of its work force -- by 2013 as it strives to cut costs by $1.35 billion.

The Finnish-German company says it will launch "an extensive global restructuring program" by streamlining and other measures, including a large reduction in suppliers. The mobile infrastructure provider is a 50-50 joint venture between Finland's Nokia Corp. and Germany's Siemens AG.

BMW is hiking prices for North American market

DETROIT -- German automaker BMW is raising prices on most of its models in North America on Jan. 1 to cover the cost of inflation. The company said Wednesday it balanced inflation against competitive pressures and the auto sales market before deciding on increases of less than 1 percent.

BMW also raised its shipping fee 2 percent to $895. Price increases range from $170 to $320 per vehicle.

The price of BMW's lowest-cost car, the 128i Coupe, will rise one-half percent to $32,095, including shipping. The most-expensive BMW, the X6-M sport utility vehicle, rises 0.4 percent to $91,195.

Reports: Microsoft may be checking out Yahoo

SAN FRANCISCO -- Microsoft seems interested in taking part in the negotiations if Yahoo decides to sell part or all of its business.

The DealReporter and The New York Times both reported Wednesday that Microsoft has signed a nondisclosure agreement so it can take a closer look at Yahoo's books. The publications cited an unnamed person familiar with the matter. Microsoft and Yahoo declined to comment.