Thursday, March 6, 2008

Stocks Hit the Skids

It took more than a month, but the major indices dove back to where they were on January 22-23, when the first signs of the economy in crisis really were becoming apparent.

Dow 12,040.39 -214.60; NASDAQ 2,220.50 -52.31; S&P 500 1,304.34 -29.36; NYSE Composite 8,765.41 -197.01

The Dow managed to close above the previous low of 11,971.19, though not by much, and the indication is that the intraday lows - in the 11,500 range - are certain to be tested.

On the S&P it was worse. That index closed below the Jan. 22 low of 1310.50. The NASDAQ, which had already cracked its low of 2292 on February 29, fell to a level not seen in 17 months.

The broad-based NYSE composite has fared the best of all, still, it is only 100 points above its prior closing low.

The declines were caused by the usual, persistent problems: housing, credit, inflation. There was a major mortgage financier default, but that's getting to be old news. The plunge toward total darkness continues.

There was no avoiding the cascade of stocks. Declining issues outnumbered advancers, 5327-976. Obviously, this is a tough market in which to pick winners. New lows surpassed new highs, 644-77.

Artificially high crude closed at another new high of $105.47, up 95 cents. Oil and gas prices are seriously out of control, though the higher the price goes, the more serious becomes the search and deployment of alternative energy supplies.

Gold dropped $14.20 to 974.30 and silver lost 56 cents to $20.23.

In one small smidgen of good news, Wal-Mart boosted its annual dividend. America apparently will keep shopping.

Tomorrow, the government's February employment report is released prior to the market open. It's difficult to envision a condition in which cooler heads will prevail if the labor situation is even better than anticipated, a paltry 35,000 new jobs created, and that's optimistic.

Look out below.

NYSE Volume 4,323,458,500
NASDAQ Volume 2,246,466,500

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