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Dow falls below 10,000; investors worry

The Associated Press
Thursday March 15, 2001

NEW YORK — The prospect of the economic slowdown spreading around the globe shook Wall Street Wednesday, sending the Dow Jones industrials below 10,000 and setting the blue chip index up for its worst week in more than 11 years. The drop followed a nosedive in prices overseas as investors simply had no reason to buy. 

The fears on U.S. markets matched those on exchanges in Europe and Asia – that slowing economies will continue to hurt corporate profits and, in turn, stock prices. 

“Anyway you put it, this is bad,” said Gary Kaltbaum, a technical analyst for First Union Securities. “You are in the vicious cycle now.” 

“It’s a combination of Japan and Europe getting slaughtered, and the ’throw in the towel’ mentality here,” Kaltbaum said. “I do not know where it ends.” 

While sellers have dominated the U.S. stock market recently, believing that poor earnings and the weakening economy in this country won’t recover in the near future, the prospect of economic crises in other countries, especially Japan, unnerved investors around the globe Wednesday. 

“You put all that together and this is more than the market (here) could take,” said Charles Pradilla, chief investment strategist at SG Cowen Securities. 

Wednesday’s session also brought a litany of other bad numbers for the stock market’s best-known barometer: 

• Already down about 6.3 percent this week, the Dow is poised to have its worst week in terms of a percentage decline since 1989, when it fell 7.76 percent the week ended Oct. 13. 

• So far this week, the Dow has lost 671.16, the second-largest weekly point drop. The most the Dow has ever lost in one week was nearly a year ago, when it fell 805.71 the week of April 14. 

Broader market indicators also skidded Wednesday. The Nasdaq composite fell 42.69 to 1,972.09, while the Standard & Poor’s 500 tumbled 30.95 to 1,166.71. 

It all added up to $270 billion loss in the total market value of New York Stock Exchange, American Stock Exchange and Nasdaq stocks on top of a staggering $554.5 billion beating Monday, according to Wilshire Associates of Santa Monica. 

Although Wednesday’s session was dismal for the Dow, analysts were quick to point out that blue chips have held up much better over the long term than other market indicators that include a greater number of riskier technology stocks. 

The Nasdaq composite index is about 61 percent off its record high of 5,048.62 set on March 10, 2000. Meanwhile, the Dow is down just 15 percent from its closing high, 11,722.98, recorded on Jan. 17, 2000. 


One reason for the Dow’s slide Wednesday was that it had nowhere to go but down; investors had recently bid blue chips higher while they bailed out of tech stocks. 

The Dow’s decline began as soon as the market opened. Investors, already struggling with a bleak outlook for U.S. corporate profits, were further shaken by news Japan’s admission Tuesday that the world’s second-biggest economy is in a state of deflation, an economic situation that can lead to recession. 

The fear is that Japan’s economic problems will cut into demand in that country for U.S. goods and services and in turn lead to a further drop in American stock prices. 

“The reaction to word that Japan is in a pretty tough spot is perhaps the prevailing issue driving the market down today,” said Charles G. Crain, strategist for Spears, Benzak, Salomon & Farrell, a division of Key Asset Management in New York. 

U.S. financial stocks suffered after 19 Japanese banks were placed on “negative watch” by an international rating agency. Uncertain how exposed American banks are to Japan’s crisis, investors drove J.P. Morgan Chase down $3.65 to $43.75, and Citibank down $3.49 to $44.90. Both are Dow components. 

Some tech companies, which have suffered the most from the U.S. economic slowdown, already have said business has suffered declining demand abroad, particularly in Asia. 

Cisco Systems’ CEO John T. Chambers, for example, told investors at Tuesday’s Merrill Lynch Global Communications Conference in New York business is getting tougher in Asia. The world’s biggest supplier of Internet networking equipment, whose grim outlook issued late Friday helped spur Monday’s big selloff, tumbled $1.13 Wednesday to close at $20.25. 

Japan’s Nikkei stock average closed up 0.2 percent Wednesday after falling to a 16-year low Tuesday. Japan’s economic problems were significant enough to turn investors’ attention away from bleak profit outlooks for American companies, which have been propelling stocks downward since late last year. 

“The earnings worries are sort of institutionalized now,” Crain said. 

Stocks fell hard in Europe, plummeting to 16-month lows. The biggest losses came from technology and telecommunications stocks, which recoiled on the Nasdaq’s instability. 

Germany’s DAX index tumbled 2.8 percent, Britain’s FT-SE 100 dropped 1.7 percent, and France’s CAC-40 fell 1.4 percent. 

Reports of weaker economies abroad dashed Wall Street’s hopes that the market here had put in a bottom on Monday and that Tuesday’s made modest gains could be the start of a rebound or even a short-term rally. 

While the U.S. Federal Reserve has lowered interest rates twice this year and is widely expected to push rates lower again next week, the central bank’s actions are not being viewed as aggressive enough to lift the economy out of its slump. 

Investors, who had thought business would pick up in the second half of the year, are now afraid earnings and the economy will remain in a slump all year. 

“A lot of this reporting about being in a bear market has started to seep through,” said Pradilla, the strategist for SG Cowen. 

There was no safe haven in the Dow on Wednesday when Procter & Gamble dropped $1.54 to $66.60 and Merck fell $1 to $71.93. 

Tech losses were widespread, including Yahoo!, down 75 cents at $15.31, and Intel, off 31 cents at $29.06. The companies, along with Cisco, brought about the market’s recent major tumble after warning late last week of poor business conditions. 

Declining issues outnumbered advancers more than 3 to 1 on the New York Stock Exchange, where consolidated volume was 1.62 billion, compared with 1.60 billion on Tuesday. 

The Russell 2000 index, which tracks the performance of smaller company stocks, dropped 8.57 to 453.69. 


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