Stocks sink on '87 crash anniversary

NEW YORK Sat Oct 20, 2007 12:23am EDT

1 of 2. A board at the New York Stock Exchange displays the closing numbers, October 19, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/Brendan McDermid

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NEW YORK (Reuters) -Caterpillar Inc.'s warning that the housing slump was infecting the wider economy sent U.S. stocks tumbling by the most in more than two months on Friday, in a drop that was made more unnerving as it marked the 20th anniversary of the 1987 market crash.

The Dow fell nearly 367 points after Caterpillar, the world's top maker of earth-moving construction and mining equipment, said the U.S. economy will be "near to, or even in, recession" next year. Several industries it serves already are in recession, it said.

The bleak comments from economic bellwether Caterpillar, whose stock fell 5.3 percent, helped drag down the shares of other big manufacturers, including 3M Co., and contributed to a shift from stocks to the relative safety of U.S. Treasury bonds.

Weak North America results sent shares of Schlumberger Ltd, the world's largest oil service company, down 11 percent. Energy producers' shares also fell as oil retreated from its record high of just over $90 a barrel.

"It's pretty ugly," said Bill Strazzullo, partner and chief market strategist at Bell Curve Trading in Boston.

"A company like Caterpillar should be a poster child for global growth and benefits of the weak dollar. It makes you question: Is global growth really that strong? Has the earnings kick from the weak dollar played itself out?"

The Dow Jones industrial average was down 366.94 points, or 2.64 percent, to end at 13,522.02. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was down 39.45 points, or 2.56 percent, at 1,500.63. The Nasdaq Composite Index was down 74.15 points, or 2.65 percent, at 2,725.16.

It was the worst percentage drop for the Dow and the S&P 500 since Aug 9, the day the European Central Bank injected money into the banking system to help calm markets after French bank BNP Paribas froze three funds that invested in U.S. subprime mortgages. The Nasdaq had its biggest daily percentage drop since the global market rout on February 27.

The market's decline coincided with the 20th anniversary of "Black Monday." On October 19, 1987, the Dow industrials fell nearly 23 percent.

WORST WEEK SINCE JULY

It was the worst weekly performance for the Dow and the S&P since the last week of July, with the Dow ending down 4.1 percent, the S&P lost 3.9 percent. The Nasdaq shed 2.9 percent.

Shares of 3M Co fell 8.6 percent to $86.62 on worries about falling profits in the LCD television market.

Caterpillar lost 5.3 percent to $73.57. Investors watch large manufacturers like 3M and Caterpillar for clues on the strength of the U.S. economy.

The week capped another tumultuous period for the financial sector after banks such as Citigroup Inc and Bank of America Corp rattled investors with disappointing earnings reports.

On Friday, Wachovia Corp, the fourth-largest U.S. bank, posted its first profit drop in six years, hurt by $1.3 billion of write-downs at its investment banking unit as credit markets tightened. For details, see Wachovia fell 3.7 percent to $46.37 on the New York Stock Exchange.

The S&P financial index had its worst week since July 2002. It was also the index's first weekly drop since the Federal Reserve cut interest rates on September 18 -- a cut that was meant, in part, to allay concerns about the effects of the credit crunch.

U.S. short-term interest-rate futures on Friday showed as high as a 98 percent chance of a one-quarter percent cut at the Federal Reserve's October meeting. The Fed's decision will be announced after that two-day meeting concludes on October 31, which also is Halloween.

Exxon Mobil Corp shares dropped 3.1 percent to $92.14 as U.S. crude shed 87 cents to settle at $88.60 a barrel after rising to a record $90.07 overnight.

Schlumberger shares, which are still up around 60 percent this year, dropped 11 percent, or $12.30, to $99.32. That weighed on the entire sector, pulling the Philadelphia Stock Exchange index of oil services companies down 6.4 percent.

Trading was fairly active on the NYSE, with about 1.80 billion shares changing hands, just short of last year's estimated daily average of 1.84 billion, while on Nasdaq, about 2.37 billion shares traded, exceeding last year's daily average of 2.02 billion.

Declining stocks outnumbered advancing ones by a ratio of about 5 to 1 on both the NYSE and the Nasdaq.

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