The brave bargain-hunters who had reversed Wall Street's downturns in recent years are becoming scarce as the global economy grows more fragile.
With the yearlong Asian economic crisis spilling into Russia and threatening to engulf Latin American markets, fewer U.S. investors are daring to jump into stocks after prices fall in search of cheaper buying opportunities."The investment philosophy has changed. Investors are no longer are looking to buy on the dip," Barry Hyman, senior market analyst at Ehrenkrantz King Nussbaum, said Monday.
Unlike the record-setting plunge last October, which was overcome within weeks by confidence in the U.S. economy, the current slump has been weighed down by lower profits from American companies with exposure in Asia.
Last fall, American companies "were saying the effect was going to be modest because nobody knew. They didn't know how long it was going to last, they didn't know how bad it was going to be," said Barry Berman, head trader for Robert W. Baird & Co. in Milwaukee.
"Now people are starting to figure that out - they're starting to see it in the earnings," Berman said.
There have been bargain-hunters lingering on Wall Street, but they have been swept away by the growing worries that global economic ills will cause further damage to U.S companies. In the past two sessions, the Dow Jones industrial average moved higher initially following big losses a day earlier, but those gains were swiftly erased.
"I just feel over the long term things will get better. If things go down, I'll keep buying as long as I have the money," said Marvin Rosengart, a jeweler from Oradell, N.J.
Many individual investors have been aiding the market's slide. Trading activity nearly tripled Friday among a sample of participants in 401 retirement plans at major companies, with most investors seek-ing safety in the bond market, according to Hewitt Associates.
But after Monday's 512-point drop, the second-worst point plunge ever, market watchers milling around the huge TV screen and giant stock tickers in Manhattan's Times Square were mostly in limbo.
Many said they were holding onto their stocks and mutual funds with the hope that a turnaround was coming but were not confident enough of a rebound to pour in more money.