Stocks dive, Dow off 376 on world economic worries

Filed under: Daily News |

Stocks plunged again Thursday as more investors woke up to the possibility that economic problems such as Europe’s debt crisis might spread around the world and stop the growing recovery in the U.S.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 376 points, its biggest one-day point drop since February 2009, and all the major indexes were down well over than 3 percent. Meanwhile, interest rates fell sharply in the Treasury market as investors once again sought the safety of U.S. government debt.

With Thursday’s drop, the Standard & Poor’s 500 index, considered the best indicator of the stock market’s performance, is down almost 12 percent from its 2010 high close of 1,217.28, reached April 23. That means the market is officially in what’s called a correction, a drop of 10 percent or more from a recent high. This is the first correction since stock indexes hit 12-year lows in March last year. The fact it has occurred in just 19 trading days shows how anxious traders are right now.

Analysts said there was no big event to set off Thursday’s selling. More investors seemed to be grasping the possibility that the U.S. recovery could be in jeopardy. And many were wondering whether the stock market’s big rebound since March 2009 may not have been entirely justified.

“The economic recovery story has started to look like a mirage and the new reality is a return to credit crunch conditions” like those seen during the financial crisis, said Tom Samuels, manager of the Palantir Fund in Houston. “If that’s correct, stock prices are well ahead of economic reality.”

Investors are concerned that the debt problems in European nations like Greece and Portugal will spill over to other countries, cause a cascade of massive losses for big banks and in turn halt the economic recovery in countries beyond Europe, including the U.S. They’re also worried that China might take steps that will limit its economic growth, which would also affect the U.S. recovery. Analysts said the market is vulnerable to rumors about any of the major economies right now.

- Associated Press