August 18, 2009 in Business

Stock dive humbles hopes

Economy will rebound slowly, analysts say
Tim Paradis Associated Press
 

Oil prices fall despite storm threats

 Oil prices fell Monday even as the year’s first hurricane threatened to grow in size before it heads toward the U.S. coast.

 Benchmark crude for September delivery fell 76 cents to settle at $66.75 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Prices have fallen more than 5 percent in two trading sessions.

 The appearance of hurricanes and tropical storms, which can damage oil and natural gas operations in the Gulf of Mexico, were outweighed by new reports showing that nervous consumers are holding on to their money.

NEW YORK – Investors are finding out what everybody else already knew: The consumer isn’t going to spend the economy into recovery.

Major U.S. stocks indexes tumbled by the biggest amount in six weeks Monday as investors grew worried that they have been too quick to bet on an economic rebound during the market’s five-month rally. Overseas markets and commodities plunged, and demand for safe-haven investments sent the dollar and Treasury prices shooting higher.

The Dow Jones industrial average skidded 186 points, and all the major indexes fell at least 2 percent. The Nasdaq composite index was hardest hit, dropping 2.8 percent, but it also has had the biggest advance as Wall Street rallied this year.

A shudder in China’s main stock market touched off a wave of selling that spread to Europe and then the U.S. A slide in quarterly profits at home-improvement retailer Lowe’s Cos. only added to worries that an improvement in the economy is far off.

Joe Saluzzi, co-head of equity trading at Themis Trading LLC, said the selling was warranted.

“The economics obviously don’t support where we’ve been,” he said.

The slide was steep but felt more controlled than the plunges of the past year because stocks ended off of their worst levels and because analysts have been calling for a retreat after the Dow and Standard & Poor’s 500 indexes raced up 15 percent in only five weeks.

Some investors used to seeing a quick bounce-back in stocks have underestimated how difficult the recovery could be, even though many analysts have warned that it could take well into 2010 for the economy to regain strength. And some traders seem to be in the same mindset as three years ago, willing to take big chances even when there’s little economic or corporate evidence to justify a huge advance.

Now, with consumers facing high unemployment, weak home prices and mounds of debt, investors are worrying that they had grown too optimistic even though the stock market tends to improve before the economy after a recession.

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