Dow closes below 9,000

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 11, 2002

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Stocks fell below 9,000 Wednesday for the first time since Oct. 2, following news of another investigation into possible corporate criminal activity.

The Dow Jones closed 8,813. after falling 282.59 points or 3.1 percent on Wednesday.

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The close marks one of the Dow’s lowest in recent history. The last time the Dow fell below 9,000 was Oct. 2, when it was still reeling from the post-Sept. 11 losses.

However, local consultants are telling investors to sit tight.

"The best advice I can give is not to panic," said Mike Hall, financial consultant at AG Edwards in Troy. "The stock market is very volatile right now because people have lost confidence."

News broke earlier in the day that the U.S. Attorney’s office has launched a criminal probe into Qwest Communications, a phone company in Denver. Qwest’s share price fell 32 percent.

The stock market’s dip came a day after President Bush announced new proposals to help curb corporate crime and restore investor confidence.

Hall said only "a small number" of corporate officers and directors who are corrupt. "Things just tend to be magnified at a time like this," he said.

Scandals over the past several months- the largest involving energy company Enron and telecommunications giant WorldCom- have eroded confidence in the market.

On Tuesday, Bush proposed a number of ways to deal with corporate scandals, including:

·A task force headed by the Justice Department to direct investigations, prosecutions and coordination between agencies in fighting corporate crime.

·Doubling to 10 years the maximum prison sentence for mail fraud and wire fraud.

·Longer prison sentences for corporate officers and directors convicted of fraud.

Peter Cardillo, chief strategist at Global Partners Securities, told The Associated Press the Dow index was moving perilously close to the 8,800 level, a crucial level.

"If we break below that level, we’re in uncharted waters," said Cardillo. "I’m cautiously optimistic that things will turn around soon, but these accounting scandals are continuing to dog this market and that news from Qwest isn’t helping."

The markets have lost ground the previous two years (2002 and 2001) and are on course to lose for the third year in a row.The last time the markets lost three years in a row was in 1939 through 1941. The last time the markets had lost two years in a row, before the recent slide, was 1973-74.

Throughout history, Hall said, the stock market has traveled a bumpy road because of world wars and other crisis situations, but it has always come back strong after it was given time to recover.

"We don’t know exactly when ­  nobody does ­ but the economy is showing signs of turning around. We’re telling investors not to panic and to ride it out for a while," he said.

Hall also said certain indicators lead experts to believe the economy is on the upswing. "There are several signs of growth and this upswing in the economy will continue to build and the stock market will follow. This is based on history."

­ BNI Newswire writers Kerry Whipple and Tim Reeves contributed to this report.