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Wall Street Has Another Brutal Day, As Stock Prices Plummet

Trader Michael Capolino (right) watches prices on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange Wednesday. Stocks endured another bloodbath, and oil fell below $27 a barrel.
Richard Drew
Trader Michael Capolino (right) watches prices on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange Wednesday. Stocks endured another bloodbath, and oil fell below $27 a barrel.

The turmoil on Wall Street showed no signs of letting up today, as fears about the slowing global economy once again sent oil and stock prices tumbling.

The Dow Jones industrial average was down more than 500 points, a drop of 3.5 percent, at a little after noon ET, though it later rebounded somewhat and ended the day down 249 points. Meanwhile, oil fell below $27 a barrel, a 12-year low.

Both the Dow and the Standard & Poor's 500 index have now lost more than 10 percent of their value since the start of the year. Globally, the stock markets have lost $3.6 trillion in value, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The S&P even fell below the lows it reached last August, following China's decision to devalue its currency.

Among the biggest losers was IBM, which fell nearly 5 percent after a disappointing earnings report.

On the whole, however, there didn't seem to be any immediate cause for the latest plunge, just a continuation of the fears and anxiety that have gripped investors for weeks.

"There are economic factors, but today doesn't feel like it's economic. It feels emotional," said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics, in an interview with NPR. He called the sell-off "cathartic."

Zandi added:

"I think investors have seen the declines and they've gotten to the point where they're just nervous, maybe a bit panicked, and you get this broad-based selling. It's very uncomfortable, but it happens. The markets at times are wildly euphoric and other times they're taken over by abject pessimism.

"This is one of those days when people say, 'I want out' and they're getting out. And it doesn't really matter what they own and what the long-term fundamentals are and how good those companies are or what their prospects are. That's totally irrelevant on a day like today. It's just, 'I want out. I've seen my portfolio fall 10, 15 percent in value. It's time for me to cash in my chips.' And this is the day they're cashing in."

Stephen Schwarzman, CEO of the Blackstone Group, told Bloomberg News that "there are a lot of things behind the selloff."

"You have economic things such as the slowing of the U.S. economy, which has been pretty gradual," he says. "You've got energy going down so quickly that you can almost get windburn. You've got China as an issue which is probably overdone. So when you put those factors together you have an unattractive brew along with the concern the Federal Reserve will raise rates and slow the economy further."

As stock prices tumbled, investors put their money in the usual safe havens, buying gold, the Japanese yen and U.S. Treasury debt. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell below 2 percent, which is generally considered a key psychological milestone for investors.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jim Zarroli is an NPR correspondent based in New York. He covers economics and business news.

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