Stocks resumed their decline on Wednesday -- the third big drop in the last five trading days. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 520 points, or 4.6%. The S&P 500 fell 4.4% to close at 1,121, while the Nasdaq was taken down more than 101 points to the end the day at 2,381.
In other words, Tuesday's gains, in which the Dow jumped 430 points, are a distant memory.
Stocks are on track for their worst monthly drop since after the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy in the fall of 2008. After making steady gains in their 401(k) plans since then, average Americans are once again falling further behind on their retirement goals. The recent drop in the market is making headlines, but as Aaron Task and the Breakout team discuss in this clip, it's by no means the only economic hardship facing the middle class -- it's just the latest.
Here are some other headlines you might have missed while you were watching your portfolio shrink over the last few days.
Horrific Housing Market
Existing home sales fell 2.8% in the second quarter compared to a year ago, according to the National Association of Realtors. The number of home sales is also off, falling 5.4% from the previous quarter and is down almost 13% compared to the sometime last year. At this rate the housing market will continue to be a drag on the economy.
Backdoor Bailout for Banks
Meanwhile, as homeowner pain reaches new heights, it appears banks continue to receive favorable treatment from the government. The Wall Street Journal reports Fannie Mae -- essentially a government entity (that by the way continues to receive billions in taxpayer aid each quarter) -- just spent $500 million to buy the servicing rights to a Bank of America (BAC) portfolio of "seven million loans still causing the most problems." That's what they call a backdoor bailout.
Speaking of Bank of America, the stock continued to mirror the pattern of steep sell-offs and furious rallies seen in the broader market. This time, shares of BofA were down 10.9% to $6.77. A conference call held by CEO Brian Moynihan with investors, led by Fairholme's Bruce Berkowitz, didn't help the bank's cause. According to a summary of the call in the WSJ, Moynihan pushed back against those who would question how he has performed while leading the company, and he said BofA would not part ways with brokerage firm Merrill Lynch. Additionally, he said there weren't "many days when I get up and think positively about the Countrywide transaction in 2008."
BofA bought the big mortgage firm during the 2008 credit crisis, and it has been responsible for a gigantic financial drag on the firm in the time since.
The Federal Reserve on Tuesday said it will keep interest rates "exceptionally low" through the middle of 2013. That and the possibility of more quantitative easing may eventually reflate assets -- a good thing for stock portfolios. The problem is the Fed's reaction to the crisis has and will continue to do little to improve real economic conditions, such as stubbornly high unemployment, which remains at 9.1% more than two years after the financial crisis. And, for those able to save some money, the low interest rates aren't rewarding your bank accounts.
Add it all up, and unfortunately there's little to feel good about.
- interest rates
- Lehman Brothers bankruptcy