Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). (Spencer Platt/GETTY IMAGES)

2:59 p.m.: A turbulent day for Hewlett-Packard

HP’s stock has been on a rollercoaster ride today, thanks in part to a report that the firm planned to spin off its PC business and was in talks to purchase Autonomy, one of Britain’s largest software makers, for about $10 billion.

Before the report surfaced, HP’s stock was getting slammed, as were numerous other stocks in the tech sector. At one point this morning, HP was down more than 6 percent.

News of the possible spinoff and acquistion sent the stock charging back into positive territory, but not for long. Within less than an hour, it was down again.

About an hour away from the closing bell and from the release of the company’s quarterly earnings report, the stock is trading at about $30.43 per share, down about three percent from yesterday.

1:55 p.m. Why didn’t home sales numbers live up to analyst expectations?

Data released Thursday by the National Association of Realtors showed that existing-home sales fell 3.5 percent to their lowest rate since November. The numbers did not align with analyst expectations, which projected that sales would increase, not decrease, month-over-month. CNBC’s Diana Olick has an interesting take on how and why analysts managed to get it wrong. She suggests that, among other factors, poor appraisals, tough lending conditions, and diminished buyer confidence all played role in the decline.

1:26 p.m. What’s the VIX doing?

A key measure of market volatility is the Chicago Board Options Exchange Market Volatility Index, better known as the VIX. The index shot up to 41.54 by 1:23 p.m., a 31 percent increase, indicating that investors were jittery about the activity in today’s trading session.

You can track the VIX in real time by visiting the CBOE’s Web site.

12:29 p.m.: Gold prices hit record high--again.

Anyone who’s been tracking financial news closely over the last couple of weeks knows there’s at least one headline we’ve been seeing over and over again: “Gold prices hit record high.” As the markets have swung wildly between gains and losses, this commodity has remained at or near historic highs because, like Treasury bonds, gold is considered a safe investment. 

Today gold futures soared to $1,829.70 per ounce.

Wondering how gold clinched its status as a low-risk investment and how its prices have fluctuated over time? The Associated Press has an in-depth explanation: While gold has indeed hit its nominal high, it has a ways to go before reaching an inflation-adjusted high. Gold prices would have to eclipse $2,300 in today’s dollars to surpass 1980’s high of $850 per ounce. That level was reached as inflation soared, the value of the dollar dropped, and investors were spooked by events including the Iran hostage crisis.

12:13 p.m. Treasury yields hit record lows

After hovering at ultra-low levels for much of the last two weeks, yields on U.S. Treasury bonds briefly dipped below 2 percent, according to Bloomberg News. The dip is a sign that investors are seeking safe places to park their money amid turmoil in the broader markets.

11:47 a.m.: Tech stocks take a hit

The stocks of major technology firms are in particularly bad shape this morning. Computing giant HP’s stock was down about 6.24 percent, while IBM fell 5.77 percent. Chipmaker Intel also saw major losses, declining 4.23 percent. Cisco fell 4.73 percent, while Microsoft dropped 3.31 percent.

11:31 a.m.: Why the markets are down

After global markets took a major hit in Thursday’s trading session, U.S. stocks followed suit. All the major U.S. indexes slid more than four percent in morning trading. Two factors seem to be moving the plunge: pessimism about the global economy, especially the financial struggles of European nations, and a bleak forecast by JP Morgan about the firm’s forthcoming growth. Reports released this morning by the Labor Department also pointed to weakness in the U.S. economy. Jobless claims rose more than forecast, and the Consumer Price Index increased 0.5 percent.