Dog Dow Afternoon

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NEW YORK: Yes, Mr. and Mrs. Investor, it's a bear. But how big are its claws? Monday's Wall Street sell-off saw the Dow drop a chilling 512.61 points, its second-worst performance ever. And NASDAQ tanked 140.46 points -- the biggest loss in its history. Not even Viagra could keep Pfizer up; the pharmaceutical company's stock sagged 7 7/16. Biggest loser? Internet darling, which lost a whopping 22 1/8.

"The one- and two-day mini-crashes have finally stopped looking like buying opportunities, and that tends to feed off of itself," says FORTUNE senior writer Andrew Serwer. "The only question is how much further we can go." Market pessimists have been predicting the bears' arrival for months based on the widespread overvaluing of stocks, but a crash like this -- which began in earnest only after 3 p.m. -- has a lot more to do with psychology than economic reality. "The U.S. economy is still strong," says Serwer, "but traders and investors have stopped separating our health from the illness of Asia and Russia." At this rate, Serwer says, "we could lose another 15 percent in no time." And then the foreign flus would really hit home -- in the form of a recession.