Exodus on Wall Street

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NEW YORK: Dark clouds loom on Wall Street, and the across-the-board bloodbaths this week means investors are getting inside. "Next week, earnings reports season begins in earnest," says FORTUNE writer Nelson Schwartz, "and there have been a lot of warnings of a lot of bad news, especially from the tech stocks." What's spoiling the mood? Asia. For a few days this week, Asia was looking up. South Korea was leveling off. Then came Indonesia. "The panic in Indonesia reminded everyone that the Asia problems aren't going away." In some ways, Indonesia, ripe with rumors of civil unrest and even a military coup, is worse because it sparks the imagination. "Having that on their minds, with the dread of next week," says Schwartz, "there was a rush Friday to get some profits out before it all comes down."

In only six days of trading, 1998 already has the look of a nightmare. The Dow and Nasdaq each posted 20 percent gains last year; today's selloff left them both down close to 5 percent. Broader measures are right in step. The question for investors is this: When will the hot potatoes turn into bargains?