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Stocks Remain Volatile After Worst Month in Decades

Wall Street has endured its worst month in 21 years yet its best week in 34 years. The markets continue to remain unsettled on news of consumer spending cutbacks and investors' fears. The Wall Street Journal's economics editor analyzes the tumultuous month's events.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    Jeffrey Brown oversees the economic week and month that were.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    It was, we can say on this Halloween, a very scary month. But on Wall Street, at least, it ended on a positive note.

    Our update tonight comes from David Wessel, economics editor of the Wall Street Journal.

    Well, the worst month in 21 years, the best week in 34 years. David, can you offer any helpful perspective for us tonight?

  • DAVID WESSEL, Wall Street Journal:

    Well, I don't think you want to take too much comfort in what happened to the stock market. In a time like this, it's a little bit like the car is skidding on the ice, and you don't want to look at the speedometer too closely, because that's not where the problem is.

    But it was good news. As you point out, the market had a great week, up 11 percent this week. Although, for the month, it was an awful month, down 14 percent.

    And the question really is, is this the bottom? And the answer is, we don't know. All bottoms look like this, but not every market that looks like this is, in fact, a bottom.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    One thing that continues to rattle people, I think, is the volatility.

  • DAVID WESSEL:

    Right.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Many of us here have decided that maybe it's not worth even looking at the Dow number until 3:55, five minutes before the close, because of the huge swings. Do you sense that we just have to get used to that now?

  • DAVID WESSEL:

    Well, I think for the time being. I think it reflects a couple of things, one is the kind of panic that's out there, where people are not being completely rational. Markets do tend to overshoot at times like this.

    But, secondly, the stock market is only one market. And the other markets, the credit markets, the bond markets, the currency markets, they're all behaving very strangely, too. So they're giving us kind of misleading readings or uncertain readings. And at times of uncertainty and panic, you know, traders will do weird things at 3:55 on Halloween.

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