NEW YORK: Europe’s latest efforts to quell its financial crisis left investors exasperated Monday, causing steep losses in stock markets on both sides of the Atlantic.

The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 138.12 points to 12,502.66. The broader Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 21.30 to 1,313.72 and the Nasdaq composite declined 56.26 to 2,836.16.

In Europe, Spain formally asked for help to rescue the country’s ailing banks, but its request left many questions unanswered, including how much it needs of the $124 billion loan package offered by other European governments. The uncertainty unsettled markets, pushing borrowing costs higher for Spain’s government. Spain’s stock market plunged 3.7 percent.

“Right now it’s all about Europe, and confidence is pretty low,” said Doug Cote, chief market strategist for ING Investment Management. “The policies that they proposing are too little, too late.”

Bank of America dropped 4 percent, the biggest fall among the 30 stocks in the Dow average.

“It’s the same headline risk that we’ve been dealing with for God knows how long,” said Chip Cobb, senior vice president of Bryn Mawr Trust Asset Management.

Chesapeake Energy dropped 9 percent to $16.95 after Reuters reported that the company colluded with a Canadian rival to suppress land prices in areas considered rich in oil and natural gas.