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Markets plunge on Russia turmoil

The Dow Jones plummets more than 350 points as investors grow fearful that Russia's economic and political turmoil will linger.

3 min read
Stocks on Wall Street plunged today, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average falling 357.36 points, or 4.62 percent, as investors grew fearful that Russia's economic and political turmoil would linger longer than anticipated.

"I don't see a point in jumping out the window," said Norma Yaeger, president and head of equity at investment banking firm Yaeger Capital Markets. "I would not call this a crash--this is part of an ongoing correction that is necessary and long overdue."

After hovering down around 250 to 280 points in afternoon trading, a late sell-off pushed the Dow down further to close at 8165.99. The Nasdaq had an even bigger percentage fall, closing down 4.62 percent at 1686.39, a decline of 81.74 points.

The New York Stock Exchange and the Nasdaq each saw more than 930 million shares traded.

Yaeger said there may be a rally tomorrow, cautioned against any high expectations. "I also think we'll see it down again," she said. "You have to test the bottom levels."

Yaeger added that she considers today's market activity a "healthy sell-off which has a great deal to do with the impact" from the Russian and Asian markets.

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Russia's turmoil also slammed Asian markets today, with Japan's Nikkei Index plunging to a six-year low. Tokyo also was impacted by yesterday's news that the Japanese government's financial stimulus package may be delayed. The Nikkei plunged 3.04 percent to close at 14,413.79, down 452.24 points. All other Asian markets--with the exception of Hong Kong's Hang Seng--also fell. The Hang Seng closed 1.13 percent higher at 7,922.97, up 88.75.

Russia's central bank stopped foreign exchange trading of the ruble and dollar today because of clear signs that the embattled currency was going to plunge. It marked the second straight day that the central bank has halted trading of the ruble after announcing yesterday that it would no longer intervene to prop up the currency.

Overwhelmed by jitters over Russia, Wall Street seemed to ignore good news from several strong U.S. economic indicators. The Labor Department released data showing that the country's monthly average of jobless claims had hit its lowest point since August 9. The Commerce Department added today that inflation was almost nonexistent. Still, the U.S. economy's growth slowed sharply during the April-June quarter, with exports to Asia slumping significantly.

Semiconductor stocks continued to be hit hard, with shares of nearly all companies in the sector falling. Avanced Micro Devices fell 3.2 percent to 17; Altera fell 7.34 percent to 33.13; and Cirrus Logic fell to 8, down 2.48 percent. Analog Devices, which had seen some upside earlier in the day, closed down 8.45 percent at 16.25.

Internet stocks took a beating today, with many companies plunging 5 percent or more. Cendant , which earlier fell as much as 16.74 percent, closed down 8.15 percent at 13.38; Amazon.com fell 6.48 percent to 119; Yahoo closed down 6 percent at 91.06; and Excite fell 12.54 percent to close at 43.44.

"Internet companies really haven't been hit as hard as other tech sectors recently," said Terry McCrary, an Internet analyst at Waldron & Company. "It's [the Internet companies'] turn to get hit."

McCrary said that most Net stocks still are trading fairly close to their peaks, and continue to have high valuations relative to their price per earnings. "People look at the valuations and see they are still trading close to highs, while the rest of the tech sector has been beaten down, so they are taking this opportunity to sell off a little bit," he said.

Nonetheless, many online brokerage firms, which managed to handle much higher traffic at their sites today, noted a larger percentage of their clients buying rather than selling amid today's market activity (See related story).