Wall Street was off to a shaky start today amid a global selling spree that included the biggest decline of the year by Tokyo's blue-chip stocks.

The Dow Jones industrial average, down 248.48 points Thursday, was off an additional 96.30 in the early going, then shot up to a gain of 117.40, before giving up some of the gains. By midday, it was up 36.56 at 7,652.10 in heavy trading.The technology-heavy Nasdaq index was rising sharply, however, helped by encouraging earnings statements from Intel Corp. and Oracle Corp.

Still, traders remained on edge. Markets continued to be unsettled by economic problems that now are plaguing Latin American financial markets after roiling Russia and Asia.

There was some encouragement, however, as Brazilian shares began rising after the government raised interest rates sharply. Trading on the Sao Paulo Stock Exchange, Latin America's largest, was halted twice in Thursday's frenzied session, when shares plummeted 15.8 percent.

In addition, Russia was moving to resolve some of the political problems that have prevented the country from bailing out its economy.

The Dow's slide Thursday, on top of a 155.76-point drop Wednesday, more than wiped out Tuesday's record gain of 380.53 points. It left the Dow 18.4 percent below the July 17 record of 9,337.97 and 3.7 percent below where it began the year.

The unease worldwide has led to a buying binge for U.S. Treasury bonds, a traditional haven for cash in times of unrest. There were new sharp gains for government bonds early in the day, as global stock markets were being battered, but those gains began shrinking as U.S. stocks turned higher.

On the London Stock Exchange, Europe's biggest market, the Financial Times-Stock Exchange 100-share index was off by 1.8 percent by midday. The index had traded somewhat lower in the morning.

The damage was heavier on big Asian markets.

Tokyo's 225-issue Nikkei Stock Average plummeted 749.05 points, or 5.12 percent, to close at 13,916.98. It was the largest one-day point fall this year. The finish was just barely above the Nikkei's 12-year closing low of 13,915.63 set Aug. 28.

Hong Kong's blue-chip Hang Seng Index fell 3.5 percent, while shares in Singapore fell, sending the Straits Times Index down 1.3 percent.