The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 8,578. With today's plunge and a small decline yesterday, the Dow has given up most of the gains it made Oct. 13, when the index enjoyed both its biggest-ever single-day point gain (936 points) and largest one-day percentage gain since 1933 (11.1%). The Dow, now back to depressed levels hit late last week, is 39.6% below its October 2007 all-time high.
Stocks crumbled amid a growing consensus that a brutal recession is under way. Further evidence emerged today when the Commerce Department reported retail sales fell 1.2% in September, the biggest drop in two years. Shares in Wal-Mart Stores, the nation's top retailer, fell 8.1%.
The Ad Age/Bloomberg AdMarket 50 slumped 7%. The Standard & Poor's 500 tumbled 9%.
Ominously, stock indexes skidded to their intraday lows in the closing minutes of trading, potentially setting the stage for trouble when Asian and European markets open in the coming hours.
Just one of the AdMarket's 50 marketer, media and agency stocks rose: Coca-Cola Co. increased 1.1% after reporting strong earnings.
Rival PepsiCo, which yesterday announced a sweeping corporate overhaul, fell 5.8%, hitting a 52-week low.
Seventeen AdMarket 50 stocks -- including more than half of the AdMarket's media firms -- saw double-digit percentage declines today.
The AdMarket's biggest losers: Sprint Nextel, the ailing wireless provider (down 17.6%); Comcast Corp., the top cable-systems operator (down 14.5%); and Gannett Co., the largest newspaper publisher (down 13.6%).