Wall Street headed to another huge decline Friday, extending a global sell-off on concerns that even low interest rates won't help end the worsening credit crisis. Dow Jones industrials futures plunged 400 points ahead of the opening bell in New York.
Frozen credit markets and a loss of confidence in the world's financial system have caused the Dow to drop 21 percent in just 10 trading days. The blue chip index tumbled 678 points Thursday, and is heading to its worst weekly point drop, and one of its biggest weekly percentage drops, since being created 112 years ago.
Going into Friday's session, losses for the year add up to a staggering $8.3 trillion, according to preliminary figures measured by the Dow Jones Wilshire 5000 Composite Index, which tracks 5,000 U.S.-based companies representing almost all stocks traded in the U.S.
"Momentum is running against the market and you don't want to get hit by a train," said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at Harris Private Bank. "This is now about market psychology. There's extreme fear and panic out there."
A stream of selling forced exchanges in Austria, Russia and Indonesia to suspend trading, and those that remained opened were hammered. The rout in Australian markets caused traders there to call it "Black Friday."
European stocks sank, with Britain's FTSE-100 down 7.3 percent, German's DAX down 7.7 percent, and France's CAC-40 down 7.5 percent. In Asia, the collapse of Japan's Yamato Life Insurance caused already nervous investors to pull even more money out of the market - the Nikkei 225 fell 9.6 percent.
Central banks around the world were forced to cut interest rates this week after continuing problems in the credit market triggered concerns that banks will run out of money. Analysts have described the mood on trading floors as panicked, with investors bailing out of stocks on fears there is no end in sight to the financial carnage.
Finance ministers and central bankers from the Group of Seven nations will meet Friday to discuss the economic meltdown. One of the potential remedies expected to be discussed at the meeting in Washington is for governments to guarantee lending between banks.
President Bush is also scheduled to make a statement Friday morning about the financial turmoil, but is not expected to outline any new policy moves. Regardless, words are unlikely to stave off another brutal day, with futures pointing to another volatile session.
Dow futures were down 366, or 4.25 percent, at 8,232 just before the market opening. Standard & Poor's index futures fell 41.10, or 4.50 percent, to 871.40. Nasdaq-100 futures declined 24.50, or 1.93 percent, to 1,247.00.
Gold futures climbed, while oil prices fell. A barrel of light sweet crude fell $4.27 to $82.29 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Investors continue to shift money into safer investments, most of it going into the government bond market. The yield on the three-month Treasury bill plunged to 0.35 percent from 0.58 percent late Thursday. That suggests that demand for T-bills, regarded by investors as the safest assets around, remains high.
Longer-term Treasury yields moved higher as investors moved into shorter term issues. The yield on the benchmark 10-year note rose to 3.84 percent from 3.76 percent late Thursday.
In corporate news, General Electric Co., a bellwether for the U.S. economy, reported that third-quarter profit sunk 22 percent. The Dow component blamed the drop on more losses in its financing business, though earnings for the company met Wall Street projections.
Citigroup Inc. said late Thursday it was suspending its bid to acquire Wachovia Corp., which will be acquired by Wells Fargo & Co.
Wall Street also digested some fresh economic data. The U.S. trade deficit edged down slightly in August, reflecting a drop in foreign oil from record levels. But the politically sensitive deficit with China increased as imports from that country hit an all-time high.
The Commerce Department said the trade deficit declined by 3.5 percent in August to $59.1 billion. The deficit is expected to shrink even further in coming months as a severe economic slump depresses demand for oil and other imported goods.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)