Investors agonizing over a faltering economy sent the stock market plunging all over again Wednesday, propelling the Dow Jones industrials down 733 points to their second-largest point loss ever, and the major indexes all lost at least 7 percent.
NEW YORK — Investors agonizing over a faltering economy sent the stock market plunging all over again Wednesday, propelling the Dow Jones industrials down 733 points to their second-largest point loss ever, and the major indexes all lost at least 7 percent.
The Dow ended down 733.08, or 7.9 percent, at 8,577.91. On Monday, Sept. 29, the Dow had its largest point drop — 777.68. Wednesday’s percentage drop was the biggest since the 8.04 percent of Oct. 26, 1987, which followed Black Monday, the Oct. 19 crash that sent the blue chips down 22.6 percent in a single session.
The Dow’s massive decline Wednesday marks its 20th triple-digit move in 23 sessions.
Broader stock indicators also skidded. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 90.17, or 9 percent, to 907.84, and the Nasdaq composite index fell 150.68, or 8.5 percent, to 1,628.33.
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It was the lowest close for the Nasdaq since June 30, 2003, when the index finished at 1,622.80. The Dow and the S&P 500 are also at mid-2003 levels.
The Dow is down 39.4 percent from its Oct. 9, 2007 closing high of 14,164.53. The S&P is down 42 percent from its high at the same time of 1,565.15. The Nasdaq’s record high was 5,048.62, during the dot-com boom that swelled the index to levels it has not come close to regaining after the high-tech bubble burst.
U.S. stock-market paper losses came to $1.1 trillion Wednesday, according to the Dow Jones Wilshire 5000 composite index, which represents nearly all stocks traded in America.
The slide meant that the Dow, which fell 76 points on Tuesday, has given back all but 127 points of its record 936-point gain of Monday, which came on optimism about the banking system in response to the government’s plans to invest up to $250 billion in financial institutions.
Analysts have warned that the market will see continued volatility as it tries to recover from the devastating losses of the last month, including the nearly 2,400-point plunge in the Dow over the eight sessions that ended Friday.
Such turbulence is typical after a huge decline, but the market’s anxiety about the economy was also expected to cause gyrations in the weeks and months ahead.
Selling accelerated in the last hour of trading, a common occurrence during the eight days of heavy declines. One reason for the heavy selling: Mutual funds need to unload stock to pay investors who are bailing out of the market.
Investors apparently have come to believe that Monday’s big rebound over the banking sector was overdone given the problems elsewhere in the economy.
“It really doesn’t come as a shock after Monday’s gains were, I think, a little bit excessive,” said Charles Norton, principal and portfolio manager at GNICapital, referring to the market’s pullback.
He contends that the government has taken so many steps to help the financial system that investors must now wait for some of the actions to help steady the economy.
“It seems like all the tools in the tool chest have mostly been used now and now it’s back to reality,” he said. “We’re still faced with the fact that the economy is slowing and earnings aren’t very good.”
Doubts about the economy were already surfacing in Tuesday’s session, when investors halted an early rally and began collecting profits from stocks’ big Monday advance.
Wednesday’s data confirmed the market’s fears that the economy is likely to remain weak for some time.
Mark Coffelt, portfolio manager at Empiric Funds, said moves by European and U.S. government officials to begin investing directly in banks are easing worries about credit.
But the steep pullback in stocks that began last month after the credit markets lurched to a near standstill has now created worries that consumers will spend less after seeing the value of their retirement accounts and other investments drop.
“Markets abhor uncertainty and so we got a lot of that resolved this weekend and we got the reward Monday but now people are saying ‘OK, now what is the economy going to do?’ “
“We’re definitely going to get a slowdown from the terror of going through that,” Coffelt said.
Wednesday’s losses came as investors were hoping the market would recover from last week’s terrible run, which erased about $2.4 trillion in shareholder wealth and brought the Dow to its lowest level since April 2003.
The tumble occurred amid a seize-up in lending stemming from a lack of trust among institutions in response to the bankruptcy of investment bank Lehman Brothers and the failure of Seattle’s Washington Mutual, which had been the nation’s largest thrift.
The credit markets have been showing tentative signs of recovery, though they remain strained. The three-month Treasury bill on Wednesday was yielding 0.20 percent, down from 0.30 percent on Tuesday. Overall, yields remain low, showing that demand is so high that investors are willing to earn meager returns as long as their principal is preserved.
The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its price, fell to 4 percent from 4.03 percent late Tuesday.
Oil fell $4.09 to settle at $74.54 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.