Dow closes down by more than 140 points, suffering its worst weekly point drop in history

Friday, September 21st 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ Wall Street suffered its fourth big drop in five days Friday, giving the Dow industrial index its biggest one-week point decline ever.

The stock market's best-known indicator fell more than 140 points for the day and 1,369.70 for the week.

Friday's trading was volatile, influenced not only by Wall Street's uneasiness but also technical factors that can make the market volatile in the best of times.

The Dow had several big swings _ falling 313 points in the opening minutes of trading, surging to a gain of more than 50 points an hour later and then falling back again.

The market was clearly uneasy as it waited for the United States' anticipated retaliation for last week's terrorist attacks.

``This is an extraordinarily emotion-filled stock market environment,'' said Hugh Johnson, chief investment officer at First Albany. ``Investors are scrambling to defend their nest eggs.''

The Dow fell 140.40 to 8,235.81, a loss of 1.7 percent, according to preliminary calculations.

The Nasdaq composite index was down 47.75 or 3.3 percent at 1,423.18, while the broader Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 18.74 or 1.9 percent to 965.80.

For the week, the Dow lost 1,369.70 points, easily surpassing the record 821.21 for the week ending March 16.

However, this week's 14.2 percent decline was well below the record 24.29 percent for the week ending Dec. 12, 1914. It lost only 17.42 points that week.

Volume was extremely heavy Friday at more than 2 billion shares.

While the market historically falls in the first few weeks or months following catastrophes and other conflicts, such as the Persian Gulf war in 1991, and then heads higher over the long term, analysts said that is no comfort to investors right now.

``They are saying, 'Just get me out at all cost. I can't stand anymore,''' Johnson said. ``I try to give them perspective by looking at other crises. But even when you give them perspective, they dismiss it, because they are so scared.''

Friday's volatility also was due to what's known as a triple witching session, the quarterly expiration of index futures and index and stock options.

Many of the expirations came at the opening of trading, and investors chose to sell rather than roll the contracts forward amid the political and economic turbulence. Another round of expirations was to come at the close of trading.

Among Friday's losers were Northwest Airlines, falling 66 cents to $10.35 after announcing 10,000 layoffs. But Boeing, which is slashing 30,000 jobs, was up 34 cents at $30.10.

Insurer MetLife declined $1.23 to $25,20, electronics retailer Best Buy fell $2.20 to $43.26, and online travel agent Expedia slipped 93 cents to $21.75.

Stocks also fell overseas. Japan's Nikkei stock average finished the day down 2.4 percent. Britain's FT-SE index closed with a loss of 2.7 percent, France's CAC-40 fell 2.3 percent, Germany's DAX index declined 0.6 percent.