JEFFREY BROWN: The U.S. stock market went into freefall for a time today on one of its wildest days ever. The Dow Jones industrial average was down nearly 1,000 points, before pulling back. It finished with a loss of more than 348 points to close at 10520. The Nasdaq fell more than 82 points to close at 2319.
Some of the shockwaves hitting the market rippled outward from the streets of Athens, Greece.
It was the second day of street violence in Athens aimed at drastic spending cuts and tax hikes. Some 5,000 protesters confronted riot police outside the Greek parliament. The crowd threw stones, and police fired tear gas to disperse them.
No major injuries were reported, in contrast to Wednesday’s violence that saw a bank firebombed and three people killed. Today’s demonstrations had begun hours earlier, as Greek lawmakers gathered to consider the austerity measures in a bid to secure an international bailout. The plan will slash pensions and civil servants’ pay.
MAN (through translator): We must protest and continue the struggle until we take back what they are trying to take away from us.
WOMAN (through translator): The measures aren’t fair for workers, because they didn’t cause the crisis, and they want money from the loan to pay the banks.
JEFFREY BROWN: But Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou told Parliament the bailout was essential to save the country from plummeting into bankruptcy.
GEORGE PAPANDREOU, Greek prime minister (through translator): At this moment, as the country is at this difficult position, at this moment that the foreign parliaments are voting, no matter which political party they are coming from, for the loan of our country, the national interest ordains the broad consensus in the Greek Parliament.
JEFFREY BROWN: Ultimately, the lawmakers approved the cost-cutting measures in a vote of 172-121. That will pave the way for a $145 billion package of loans from 15 Eurozone countries and the International Monetary Fund.
But, back on Wall Street, growing doubts about the bailout and apparent trading glitches sparked a stampede to the bottom. The Dow’s thousand-point drop came in a period of less than 30 minutes, before it began to recover.