Wall Street Says Good Riddance to 2000

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In the last trading session of the millennium (the real millennium, not the Y2K one) the stock markets had a day that looked pretty much like the year: lousy.

Friday, the Dow shed 80 points to 10,788, leaving the blue-chippers down 6 percent for the year. The S&P 500 lost 13.72 to 1,320.50, 10 percent below 1999's close. And the NASDAQ — oh, the NASDAQ! — fell 85.82 points, or 3.4 percent, to 2,471.94, ending the worst year in the index's history with losses of 39 percent.

Villain of the year: Tech stocks. This was the year the bubble burst, and nobody's expecting to reinflate anytime soon. But the rest of the markets could get a boost from an expected barrage of rate cuts from Alan Greenspan and the Fed, and that just might be enough to tide the rest of the economy over until those cuts actually start to work.

For now, though, it's been a year that saw mutual-fund managers weep and stockbrokers talk their clients down from the ledge. TIME.com contributor Stew Stogel took a trip down the Street on Friday to take the traders' temperature. With the strains of "Auld Lang Syne" wafting out of trading-floor speakers — but no balloons and noisemakers this year — the consensus seems to be that the best thing about 2000 is that it's over.

"The frustration was electoral, it was financial and we just couldn't seem to shake it," said Art Cashin, who has directed PaineWebber's operations on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange for more than 25 years. "Investors went into a dot-com frenzy and paid the price," he said. "We are hoping that the year 2001 will give us a turnaround. But 2000 looks like it limped out as a disappointment."

And the dot-coms didn't just have a rough year themselves, says Cashin — they made it tough on everybody else in the retail game, with Montgomery Ward emerging Thursday as the latest casualty after 135 years as America's catalog store. "The Internet has forced retailers to make decisions with little margin for error. ... They have to be absolutely right on every point the margin of error is now a very thin line, there is no wiggle room."

Peter Mancuso, a specialist at the NYSE, apportioned the blame as he dashed home to beat an impending snowstorm. "We had too many Fed interest rate hikes and it put the kibash on the economy." But the markets made a lot of their own troubles. "In the year 2000, we overpriced everything. But nobody had the courage to say so, and we had a cataclysmic effect."

And the holiday season was no relief. "Everyone in the world anticipated a year-end rally and when it didn't come, people bailed out," Mancuso said. "There's a little gloom, but you have to remember that you have a tremendous number of people with incredible losses who had an opportunity to get out — and did."

And how is Mancuso himself looking back on 2000?

"I wish I could have skipped it."